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U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin has cited UNICEF's mortality report as illustrating that "in places where Saddam Hussein isn't manipulating the medicines and the supplies, (the sanctions regime) works." This statement figured prominently in today's New York Times report by Barbara Crossette, which was heavily syndicated in the U.S. It's unfortunate the Times chose *not* to report UNICEF's own explanation of the discrepancy of mortality rates. Following is a key paragraph from an Associated Press story, including comments from Carol Bellamy, the Executive Director of UNICEF (see http://www.msnbc.com/news/300149.asp): <begin snip> UNICEF EXPLAINS THE NUMBERS Bellamy said she believes the difference in mortality rates is the result of several factors: The Kurdish north has been receiving humanitarian assistance for longer than central and southern areas; agriculture in the north is somewhat better; and evading sanctions is a little bit easier in the north. Iraq's child mortality rate had been on the decline in the 1980s, Bellamy noted. If that decline had continued in the 1990s, she said there would have been half million fewer deaths of children under 5 during the period from 1991 to 1998. Bellamy said the findings cannot be easily dismissed as an effort by Iraq to mobilize opposition to U.N. sanctions. <end snip> Ms. Bellamy's comments echo those of other humanitarian workers in Iraq. Below, I've attached the comments of Hans von Sponeck (Dennis Halliday's successor as administrator of oil-for-food) in conversation with Kathy Kelly and others from Voices in the Wilderness; the full AP article is also attached. Upon review, it appears that the NYTimes article - while damaging - was virtually alone in its simplistic finger-pointing. Crossette is one of 3 NYT reporters that covers Iraq regulary (Judith Miller and Steven Kinzer are the others), and she consistently finds the sins of Saddam more newsworthy than the plight of the Iraqi people. Her analyses have been indifferent to the fact that blame for this tragedy is shared, and that the functional cause of the disaster remains the embargo. Regards, Drew Hamre Golden Valey, MN USA --- (First item from Kathy Kelly, VITW) Here are a few more items from the April 5 transcript of the interview with Hans von Sponeck. Summarized, the main points are: The reasons for the difference between the North and rest of Iraq are: (1) the North has more funding per capita, (2) the North has a more non-monitored goods flowing in, from Turkey, and (3) there is more private activity in the North. Here is the passage: ------------------------------------------- If you talked to UNICEF, they gave you already some information [on malnutrition]. I just want to say [that] malnutrition -- general malnutrition, acute malnutrition, chronic malnutrition -- all three are in better shape in the northern areas, in these three northern Kurdish areas, than in the rest. That has many quite objective reasons. One of which is that in the Kurdish part of Iraq, the per capita contribution from the humanitarian program is much higher than in the rest of Iraq. That's one reason. The other is that the Kurdish areas are adjacent to Turkey through which a lot of illegal items are coming into Iraq. [Another reason is] the market mechanisms are much better functioning in these parts. There's much more private activity ... in this part of the country. That explains the differential between the North and the Center-South. Having said that -- I'm sure my UNICEF colleague did say to you -- that none of the figures, neither the 23% for general malnutrition in the! South-Center nor the 14% in the North, are an acceptable figure. It's bad, and one should try and do something about it.... The food basket isn't adequate. ------------------------------------------- (Second item from Kathy Kelly, VITW) --- VITW Update Letter - May 25, 1999 The US government's readiness to starve and bomb both Iraqi and Yugoslavian civilians shows a readiness to sacrifice whole populations by use of force when nonviolent means could have been used and when it seems the US could predict, in advance, the adverse effects of decisions to use threat and force. It's maddening to watch the US government use moralistic arguments about using force to protect innocent people, only to then pursue policies that have the same effect as the one ostensibly being attacked, only ten times worse. An Iraqi teenager's frustrated and impassioned plea still rings in my ears: "You come and you say, 'you will do, you will do,' but nothing changes! I am sixteen. Can you tell me, what is the difference between me and a sixteen year old in your country? Aren't we all human beings? But we watch our children die, every day, and we have no rights...my father heads the electric company in this country and I study by candle light at night...and that is only to mention one human right!" We must work very hard to become voices for the young ones who struggle beneath weighty cruelty. In your outreach efforts, you may encounter questions about recent concerns over stockpiling of medicines and medical supplies within Iraq. UN officials in Baghdad have helped us understand prevailing complexities which affect these efforts. Special thanks to Chris Allen Doucot, Bert Sacks and Joel Schorn for helping us summarize these observations (below). Those of us who lack health insurance may have a special window of understanding into what happens when people lack money to effectively distribute medicines. Nine years ago, Iraqi health care professionals knew how to distribute medicines and medical supplies with astonishing efficiency. Now, they don't know how because they don't know how to do it without money....and neither do underfunded health care facilities in the US that attempt to serve uninsured patients! In response to recent media stories in which U.N. Secretary General Koffi Annan reported that $3 million of medical supplies are languishing undistributed in Iraqi warehouses, and other press reports charging Iraqi government with deliberately withholding the distribution of medical supplies and overstocking the same supplies for military purposes, Voices in the Wilderness would like to present the following information regarding the stockpiling drawn from sources close to the humanitarian effort in Iraq. In an April 5, 1999 meeting with a delegation of doctors, medical personnel, and peace activists, Hans Von Sponeck, the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, warned of a great deal of misinformation about the overstocking of medicines in hospitals and warehouses. "If you get from someone a monocausal explanation, then start getting suspicious." While the Iraqi government has at times ordered the overstocking of items, Von Sponeck calls this act "one factor and not a major factor in our opinion." He also disputes the military nature of the medicines. "What the military in a war situation needs in terms of medicine is not the kind of medicine that we are bringing in for normal diseases and illnesses into the warehouses," Von Sponeck said. More important in explaining the overstocking are the following factors: Low wages of Iraqi warehouses workers, insufficient transport, and the poor condition of Iraqi warehouses in the provinces hinders distribution of medical supplies. A lack of cash in the hands of Iraqi authorities also makes it difficult to insure shipments will be paid for and therefore go through. The Iraqi government has to overcome numerous obstacles put up by the sanctions to even find suppliers of medicines. In an interview, Dennis Halliday, the former U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, indicated another problem regarding contracts: the Iraqi government did not do a good job finding the right-sized companies to distribute medicine. In addition, the U.N. Security Council has delayed for months approving the distribution contracts. The U.N. Security Council has not approved the refrigerator trucks required to transport the medicine nor the computers necessary to run the inventory system. Inefficiencies in the Iraqi Ministry of Health also hurt efforts to distribute medicines. In an April 22 1999 conversation with Hartford, Connecticut Catholic Worker member Chris Doucet, the Deputy Director of the U.N. Humanitarian Program in Iraq, Farid Zarif, cited not only the lack of refrigerated trucks but also the roving electrical blackouts that spoil some of the medicine and hamper its distribution. Through U.N. Resolution #986, in which Iraq was allowed to sell a limited amount of oil in order to raise cash to buy food, many items arrived at the same time and could not be distributed because of lack of trucks. Finally, Zarif said, technicians needed to install medical equipment and devices needed to run the equipment have yet to arrive, and thus the equipment continues to sit in the warehouse. Dr. Hans Von Sponeck concluded: "The sanctions are an experiment that failed. We must not do it again." Sincerely, Kathy Kelly Voices in the Wilderness --- (Full AP story with Bellamy comments) Iraqi childhood deaths rise sharply Since Gulf War, sanctions, economic collapse have taken heavy toll UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 12 - Death among infants and toddlers has nearly doubled in much of Iraq in the last eight years, the United Nations Children's (UNICEF) fund reported Thursday. The dramatic increase, measuring the change since shortly after the 1991 Gulf War, will likely fuel the furious debate over the continuing economic sanctions against Iraq. IN GOVERNMENT-CONTROLLED central and southern Iraq - home to 85 percent of the country's population - children under age 5 are dying at more than twice the rate they were 10 years ago, according to UNICEF. By contrast, in the autonomous northern region, the mortality rate of children under 5 declined by over 20 percent in the last five years, the survey found. UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said the findings show an ongoing humanitarian emergency in Iraq, which UNICEF officials say is caused by a host of factors including sanctions, two wars, a collapsed economy and the response by the Baghdad government. STIRRING DEBATE ON SANCTIONS The survey will undoubtedly inflame the ongoing debate in the U.N. Security Council over whether to ease sanctions imposed after Baghdad's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, regardless of whether Iraq has fully complied with U.N. demands to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction. "We are not calling for a lifting of sanctions as such, because we cannot. That is not in our jurisdiction," Bellamy said in an interview Thursday. UNICEF recognizes that sanctions are used by the international community to promote peace and security, she said, "but when they're used they need to be implemented in a way to avoid serious human impact," especially on vulnerable children. U.S. BLAMES SADDAM FOR HOARDING The United States, which opposes lifting sanctions until Iraq is disarmed, blamed the Iraqi leader for the malnutrition and deaths of Iraqi children in government-controlled areas. "The bottom line is that if Saddam Hussein would not continue to hoard medicines and capabilities to assist the children of Iraq, they wouldn't have this problem," State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said Thursday. In an effort to help ordinary Iraqis cope with sanctions, the United Nations has allowed Iraq to sell limited amounts of oil to buy food, medicine, and other humanitarian aid since 1996. While the United Nations runs the oil-for-food program in northern Iraq, it relies on the Iraqi government to implement the program in the central and southern regions. AID WORKS BETTER BEYOND SADDAM'S REACH The UNICEF findings back a trend that U.N. officials identified in a report in April on the oil-for-food program: U.N. humanitarian relief operations were more effective in areas outside the control of President Saddam Hussein. The survey found that in government-controlled central and southern Iraq there were 56 deaths of children under 5 per 1,000 live births from 1984-1989 compared to 131 deaths per 1,000 live births from 1994-1999. UNICEF said this puts the child mortality rate in most of Iraq on a par with rates in Haiti and Pakistan. By contrast, in the autonomous northern region, the mortality rate of children under 5 rose slightly from 80 deaths per 1,000 live births from 1984-89 to 90 deaths per 1,000 live births during the years 1989-94. But it declined by over 20 percent from 1994-99 to 72 deaths per 1,000 live births. UNICEF EXPLAINS THE NUMBERS Bellamy said she believes the difference in mortality rates is the result of several factors: The Kurdish north has been receiving humanitarian assistance for longer than central and southern areas; agriculture in the north is somewhat better; and evading sanctions is a little bit easier in the north. Iraq's child mortality rate had been on the decline in the 1980s, Bellamy noted. If that decline had continued in the 1990s, she said there would have been half million fewer deaths of children under 5 during the period from 1991 to 1998. Bellamy said the findings cannot be easily dismissed as an effort by Iraq to mobilize opposition to U.N. sanctions. UNICEF CALLS FOR MORE FUNDING UNICEF urged the international community to provide additional funding for humanitarian efforts in Iraq and called on the U.N. committee overseeing sanctions and the Iraqi government to give priority to humanitarian contracts. And the agency said the Iraqi government should urgently implement programs to improve the nutrition of children suffering most, adopt a national policy promoting breast feeding, and replace the baby formula in the current food rations with additional food for nursing mothers. U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said nutrition programs for the needy will help reduce infant mortality rates in government-controlled areas, just as similar targeting has reduced child deaths in the north. © 1999 Associated Press. -- ------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To be removed/added, email email@example.com, NOT the whole list. Please do not sent emails with attached files to the list *** Archived at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss.html ***