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"U.N. aide urges prompt Iraq food, medicine supply"

Carol Bellamy, the Executive Director of UNICEF, is in Baghdad.  Her visit
is described in the reports below:
U.N. aide urges prompt Iraq food, medicine supply  
BAGHDAD, Oct. 13 - A senior United Nations official called on the U.N.
sanctions committee on Wednesday to reduce the suffering of Iraqi children
by ensuring prompt approval of contracts under Iraq's oil-for-food deal.  
        ''We...urge that the contracts be signed on time and that supplies
arrive on time and in sufficient quantities,'' Carol Bellamy, Executive
Director of the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF), told reporters while touring
a child rehabilitation centre in Baghdad. 
        Bellamy arrived in Iraq on Tuesday to try to reverse a dramatic rise
in the mortality rate among Iraqi children. 
        Iraq has repeatedly complained about the sluggish arrival of goods
bought under its oil-for-food pact with the United Nations, accusing the
U.S. and British representatives on the sanctions committee of blocking
        Under the rules of the pact, the committee must approve all
contracts to buy supplies before shipment can be made. 
        Bellamy said that malnutrition among Iraqi children was ''a real
        A UNICEF survey published in August showed the mortality rate in
children under the age of five had more than doubled in the
government-controlled south and centre of Iraq during nine years of U.N.
economic sanctions. 
        In a report accompanying the survey, Bellamy said that international
sanctions should be designed and implemented so as to avoid hurting
        Bellamy avoided criticising the U.N. trade sanctions on Iraq on
Wednesday, saying ''Whether the sanctions should or should not exist are
decisions taken by others. 
        ''What we have to do in UNICEF is to try to assist peoples and
governments to assure that the condition of kept as high as
        Sanctions were imposed on Iraq as punishment for its 1990 invasion
of Kuwait. Since December 1996, the U.N. has allowed Iraq to sell limited
quantities of oil to buy food and medicine for its people. 
        Baghdad said the UNICEF survey proved that the sanctions were
killing thousands of children every month and called for an immediate end to
the embargo. 
        Washington blamed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein for the high child
mortality rate, saying the Iraqi authorities were withholding medicine
supplies from their own people. 
        The UNICEF survey found that in the south and centre of Iraq,
mortality among the under-fives more than doubled from 56 deaths per 1,000
live births in the period 1984-1989 to 131 per 1,000 in the period
        In northern Iraq, which has been outside the control of the Baghdad
government since the 1991 Gulf War, the under-five mortality rate rose from
80 deaths per 1,000 in the period 1984-1989 to 90 in 1989-1994, but then
fell to 72 in 1994-99. 
        Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz said last month that the population
of Iraq was about 24 million. 
        Bellamy is due to travel to northern Iraq on Thursday.  
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited. 


Tuesday, October 12, 1999 Published at 13:18 GMT 14:18 UK 

World: Middle East

Unicef investigates Iraqi child deaths 

By Barbara Plett in Amman 

The head of the United Nations Children's Fund, Carol Bellamy, is in Iraq to
follow up reports that child death rates have more than doubled over the
past nine years. 

A UN survey published in August said at least 500,000 children under the age
of five had died in the part of the country controlled by the Iraqi
authorities since UN sanctions were imposed. 

Ms Bellamy wants to see for herself the plight of Iraqi children and she is
ready to push the government to do more to help them. 

She is aware of the political sensitivities surrounding her mission. 

The Unicef survey reignited a controversy between Iraq and the United States
over who is to blame for the grim humanitarian situation. 

Baghdad says it is UN sanctions; Washington says at best it is Iraqi
mismanagement, at worst it is a deliberate policy by President Saddam
Hussein to starve his own people for propaganda purposes. 

The crux of the US argument was based on Unicef findings that child
mortality rates had actually dropped in northern Iraq, which has been
outside Baghdad's control since the 1991 Gulf War. 

In that region, the UN distributes food and medicine imported under the
oil-for-food scheme. In the rest of the country, the government is in charge
of the programme. 

UN officials are reluctant to fully blame the Iraqi regime for the

Among other things, they note that agriculture is stronger in the north and
that looser border controls there have helped boost the economy through
widespread smuggling. 

But before heading to Baghdad, Ms Bellamy told the BBC that Iraqi officials
could be doing more. 

She said they had been too slow in submitting requests to the UN for
humanitarian supplies. 

She will also push Baghdad to give priority to highly nutritious milk and
food, targeting babies and mothers - a programme that has been effective in
the north.
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