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UNICEF press release

12 August 1999

UNICEF-Government Report Shows Dramatic Increase in Infant and Child Deaths

The first surveys since 1991 of child and maternal mortality in Iraq reveal
that in the heavily-populated southern and central parts of the country,
children under five are dying at more than twice the rate they were ten
years ago. Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of the United Nations
Children's Fund (UNICEF), said the findings reveal an ongoing humanitarian

 The surveys, released today, also cover the autonomous northern region of
Iraq. They were carried out between February and May 1999 by UNICEF,
together with the Government of Iraq in the southern and central parts of
Iraq and with local authorities in the autonomous northern region of the
country.  Technical support for both surveys was provided by the World
Health Organization (WHO).  As a consequence of the findings, UNICEF
recommended an immediate implementation of specific proposals made in United
Nations Secretary-General's reports and by the Security Council's
Humanitarian Review Panel. Among the specific proposals are the following:

? The international community should provide additional funding for
humanitarian efforts in Iraq.
? The Government of Iraq should urgently expedite implementation of targeted
nutrition programmes.
? Both the Government of Iraq and the U.N. Sanctions Committee should give
priority to contracts for supplies that will have a direct impact on the
well-being of children.

 The surveys reveal that, in the south and center of Iraq -- home to 85 per
cent of the country's population -- under-5 mortality more than doubled from
56 deaths per 1000 live births (1984-1989) to 131 deaths per 1000 live
births (1994-1999). Likewise infant mortality -- defined as the death of
children in their first year -- increased from 47 per 1000 live births to
108 per 1000 live births within the same time frame. The surveys indicate a
maternal mortality ratio in the south and center of 294 deaths per 100,000
live births over the ten-year period 1989 to 1999.

 Bellamy noted that if the substantial reduction in child mortality
throughout Iraq during the 1980s had continued through the 1990s, there
would have been half a million fewer deaths of children under-five in the
country as a whole during the eight year period 1991 to 1998. As a partial
explanation, she pointed to a March statement of the Security Council Panel
on Humanitarian Issues which states: "Even if not all suffering in Iraq can
be imputed to external factors, especially sanctions, the Iraqi people would
not be undergoing such deprivations in the absence of the prolonged measures
imposed by the Security Council and the effects of war."

             UNICEF, as a member of the UN family, recognizes that economic
sanctions are an instrument intended by the international community to
promote peace and security, Bellamy added.

 "But our concern is that whenever sanctions are imposed they should be
designed and implemented in such a way as to avoid a negative impact on
children." she said. "Surveys on the situation of children and women are
essential to the ongoing monitoring of the humanitarian situation there."

 Bellamy also said that the surveys' findings cannot be easily dismissed as
an effort by Iraq to mobilize opposition to UN sanctions.

 "The large sample sizes -- nearly 24,000 households randomly selected from
all governorates in the south and center of Iraq and 16,000 from the
north -- helped to ensure that the margin of error for child mortality in
both surveys was low," she noted. "Another important factor was the fact
that, in the survey completed in the south and center of Iraq, all the
interviewers were female and all were medical doctors.  In the survey done
in the northern autonomous region, fully 80 per cent of interviewers were
female -- each team had at least one female interviewer  and all
interviewers were trained health workers."

 UNICEF was involved in all aspects of both surveys, from design to data
analysis. The agency had full access to the hard copies of the interview
records and the complete data sets for the surveys at all times.

 "We are happy with the quality of these surveys.  They have been thoroughly
reviewed by a panel of independent experts and no major problems were found
with either the results or the way the surveys were conducted," Bellamy

 UNICEF also said that a dramatic increase in bottle-feeding of infants has
occurred in Iraq. Given the contribution of bottle-feeding to higher levels
of malnutrition and child mortality, UNICEF is urging the Government to
remove breastmilk substitutes from the rations and replace them with
additional food for pregnant and lactating women.  UNICEF has also called on
the Government to promote exclusive breastfeeding of infants as a national

 In addition, the children's agency stressed the need for the full
rehabilitation of Iraq's education sector, and urged a focusing on quality
of education, infrastructure rehabilitation and planning for the future.

Among the report's additional findings in the south and central areas of

? Current levels of under-5 mortality -- as between girls and boys -- reveal
that girls have a slightly lower rate, 125 deaths per 1000 live births as
opposed to 136 deaths per 1000 live births among boys.
? Children who live in rural areas have a higher mortality rate than
children living in an urban area: 145 deaths per 1000 live births as opposed
to 121 deaths per 1000 live births.

 In the autonomous northern region, under-5 mortality rose from 80 deaths
per 1000 live births in the period 1984-1989 to 90 deaths per 1000 live
births during the years 1989-1994. The under-5 rate fell to 72 deaths per
1000 live births between 1994 and 1999. Infant mortality rates followed a
similar pattern.

 Today's under-5 mortality rate of 131 per 1000 in south and central Iraq is
comparable to current rates in Haiti (132) and Pakistan (136).
To arrange an interview or receive a report summary please call:
UNICEF  UK - 0171 430 0162 or 0780 372 9890
UNICEF Iraq  For interviews with Annapauma Rao Singh, UNICEF Representative
in Iraq, call Fadia Alwan or Emad on 00 873 761 473 374 or 375; 00 964 1719
2318 or 2319; 00 873 761 351 892
UNICEF Geneva  Patrick McCormick, Media Section  00 41 22 909 5111/5509

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