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No new information here but perhaps encouraging. __________________________________________________ Pressure mounts for quick removal of Iraq sanctions Head of Canadian charity tells of dying children, widespread hunger and suffering Thursday, March 11, 1999 MARCUS GEE The Globe and Mail Dave Toycen has a thicket of figures to illustrate how Iraqis are suffering under UN sanctions, but it is one small incident that sticks in his mind. During a tour of Iraq last week for the Christian charity World Vision, Mr. Toycen visited a squalid apartment in the southern city of Amara. He found two families living in the kitchen -- about 16 men, women and children in a space three metres by five metres. When he entered the room, a woman stood up and pushed a glassy-eyed nine-year-old boy toward him. The boy was obviously malnourished and his sight appeared to have been damaged by vitamin-A deficiency. "Help him," she pleaded. Mr. Toycen, the president of World Vision Canada, is the latest in a stream of aid officials who are returning from Iraq with alarming news: the sanctions that were supposed to squeeze Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein are instead punishing the Iraqi people. Mr. Toycen said that everywhere he went during his five days in Iraq, he saw evidence of a society in distress: sewage running in the streets, refugee camps crowded with hungry, destitute people, hospitals with broken equipment and no medicines. At one hospital, a doctor told him that every day he sees five mothers go home with dead children. "He said he didn't know if he could take it any more," Mr. Toycen recalled yesterday. Other aid groups are bringing back similar reports from Iraq. A U.S. medical delegation reported last month that about 250,000 children under the age of five have died in the eight years since the war in the Persian Gulf, most of them from simple afflictions such as pneumonia and diarrhea, the rest from such infections as cholera, malaria, dysentery, typhoid and hepatitis. The United Nations Children's Fund, relying on Iraqi government figures, puts the toll at twice as high: 500,000. Unicef says almost one-third of Iraqi children under five -- a total of more than one million -- are malnourished. It says about one-quarter are underweight. The Iraqi economy has collapsed since the 1991 gulf war. Food prices have soared, half the workforce is unemployed and the living standards of the middle-class have declined sharply. Average Iraqis earn from $1 to $5 a month and most rely on government food rations. Concerned about the worsening situation, two Nobel Prize winners said on Tuesday that sanctions should be lifted. Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Ireland and Adolfo Perez-Esquivel of Argentina arrived in Iraq on Sunday to see the effects of the economic sanctions imposed in 1990 to punish Iraq for invading Kuwait. The United States and Britain oppose lifting the sanctions, saying Mr. Hussein's government remains a threat to his neighbours and to his own people. But after eight years, many are questioning whether sanctions are effective. "You have to ask yourself: Does the end result justify the suffering that is being imposed?" Mr. Toycen said. "Do we just accept that that's the way it's going to be?" Critics say No. Whatever the crimes of Mr. Hussein, ordinary Iraqis should not be made to pay for them. Others blame Mr. Hussein himself for the suffering. They point out that under the UN's oil-for-food program, Iraq is allowed to export a limited amount of oil to pay for imports of food and medicine. But according to a report last month by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the Iraqi government has contracted for only $1.7-million worth of high-protein biscuits for pregnant women, a quarter of what it was allowed to buy. And though the UN has approved delivery of 1,500 tonnes of infant milk, Baghdad has contracted for only 260 tonnes. "Let us be clear," British Prime Minister Tony Blair told the House of Commons late last month. "The Iraqi authorities can import as much food as they need. If there are nutritional problems in Iraq, they are not the result of sanctions. Let us not forget that Iraq is continuing to export food to her neighbours." Whoever is to blame for the conditions in Iraq, a consensus is growing that something must be done. But what? Under the current system, Iraq can sell up to $5.2-billion (U.S.) worth of oil every six months to buy food and medicine. The United States has suggested removing that ceiling and letting Iraq sell as much oil as it wants, as long as the money goes for food and drugs. The trouble is that the country's broken-down oil wells can produce only about $3-billion worth of oil every six months. Low oil prices have worsened the problem. The debate over oil and food comes amid rising pressure from the United States on Mr. Hussein's regime. For the past few weeks, U.S. war planes have been pummelling Iraqi military targets. The attacks have concentrated on no-fly zones over the north and south of the country that are intended to protect Kurdish and Shia rebels. Colin Rowat King's College Cambridge CB2 1ST tel: +44 (0)468 056 984 England fax: +44 (0)1223 335 219 -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To be removed/added, email firstname.lastname@example.org, NOT the whole list. 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