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write to The Guardian Weekly

Here's the editorial from the current edition of The Guardian Weekly
(Thursday 19 August - Wednesday 25 August).

[The e-mail address for letters is]

Saving Iraq's Children.

The importance of the report of the United Nations Children's Fund on Iraq
is not that it confirms the many other studies showing that children in that
country are suffering, but that it gives us precise, well-grounded figures,
measured judgements on the causes of increased mortality, and practical
recommendations which bear both on the Iraqi government and the
international community. The figures show that, in the parts contolled by
Saddam Hussein, infant and under-five mortality has roughly doubled in 10
years. It is possible that as many as half a million children have died who
might otherwise have survived.

The causes include the effect of sanctions, but are not confined to them.
The cumulative impact of two damaging wars, the decline in Iraq's wealth
that would have occurred whether or not sanctions were imposed, and the
failure of the Iraqi government and the international community to target
the health and nutrition of infants in Iraq have all contributed to the
increase in mortality.

The figures in northern Iraq, where agencies have been able to work under
fewer restraints and where sanctions are perhaps less effective because of
smuggling, are a startling contrast to those for Saddam's Iraq. They show a
decline in mortality over the same period. The conclusion is not that the
deaths of children in the center and south of the country can all be laid at
Saddam's door, but nor is it that the deaths are simply a consequence of
sanctions. It is rather that this is a tragedy with complex causes.

The report's argument that oil for food income is not sufficient to deal
with the problem and should be supplemented by additional aid is convincing.
Its call for programmes that make child health a priority should be heeded.
The great virtue of the report is that is shows there is much more that can
be done now for Iraqi children.

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