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Fw: Iraq Hum. Coordinator Briefing (19 Oct 00)

This briefing says that Tun Myat thinks "that improvement in nutrition in
the north was due to differences in distribution, or the fact that the
United Nations was responsible for implementation of the programme in the
north." I'm sure there's a crucial "not" missing from this sentence ! Does
anyone know who to contact to check this out ? I've e-mailed the people at
ReliefWeb (who's site contains this document) but they're not responding.

Best wishes,

voices uk

19 October 2000
Press Briefing
The food distribution system in Iraq under the “oil for food” programme was
second to none, but unless the basics -– housing, electricity, water, and
sanitation -- were restored, the overall well-being of the people would not
improve, Tun Myat, United Nations Coordinator in Iraq, told correspondents
at a United Nations briefing this afternoon.

Noting that the programme had grown in leaps and bounds, he said he had
returned to Headquarters to examine how best to improve it. He explained
that three and a half years ago when it began, the “oil for food” programme
had a humanitarian component valued at about $1.3 billion every six months.
Currently, in Phase Eight, the humanitarian component of the programme was
over $7 billion. The scope and extent of operations was far larger than
envisaged. It covered major infrastructure areas, food, medicine, health,
water and sanitation, agriculture, transportation, food handling,
telecommunications, housing and electricity. The challenge was to make a
programme designed for food to accommodate not only the large sums of money,
but also the more complex sectors.

Recalling the Secretary-General’s expressed concern over the rise in the
amount of holds placed by the Security Council Committee that monitored
sanctions against Iraq, he said the value of the held contracts was now
about $2.25 million. Oil sales to date were approximately $33 billion. He
was concerned that some of the holds pertained to critical items. If those
items were not made available, the programme would not have the desired

Regarding the humanitarian situation in the country, he said that there had
been considerable progress in the food and health sectors. The food
distribution system was good and efficient -- second to none. It ensured
that over 2,470 kilocalories was being made available every person. However,
people were so poor that they sold part of their food ration. The upturn in
nutrition was not happening. To achieve a major improvement, there had to be
improvements in all the related sectors. He had come to present the case to
the sanctions committee that his office had taken the initiative to observe
things that were being brought into the country under the programme and
reporting back as to whether the items were being used as designated. They
had informed the Committee that they had made all the arrangements on the
ground to cater to the information needs of the Committee. In return, he
hoped the Committee would release the holds that were a major problem.

A correspondent asked if the question of recent humanitarian flights to Iraq
had been broached in the discussions with the sanctions committee. How would
those flights affect the humanitarian situation? he asked. Mr. Myat said
inordinate attention had been given to those flights. In fact, humanitarian
flights had always been permitted. The point at issue was whether such
flights needed approval. The flights in question had given moral support
more than anything else.

Were the flights a symbol of a wider crumbling of the sanctions? a
correspondent asked. Mr. Myat said the flights needed to be put into
perspective. In an average month, Iraq imported huge amounts of food and
other materials -- 100,000 to 250,000 tons per month. The flights were
symbolic. The confidence they gave was worth more than the physical value of
the cargo.

In response to a question, he said he would like to think that the Iraqi
Government was doing all it could to cooperate in the distribution of goods.
Detailed observations were made in every sector of the country and food got
to every one it was supposed to get to in the country.

He was asked how, with flights coming in and out and some without
notification, he could keep tabs on or regulate what was coming into the
country. Mr. Myat replied that it was not his job to regulate what came in
and out. He did not enforce. What he did was implement the programme.
Because there was no other United Nations office in Baghdad, he had been
asked to attend to the arrival and departure of the planes, and provide
manifests. The Executive Director of the programme, Benon Sevan, had sent a
letter to the sanctions committee that the Coordinator’s office could follow
the unannounced flights.

He was then asked if such flights increased and there was no information on
how much of what was coming in, how the programme could continue to function
properly. In terms of scope and scale, Mr. Myat said what was coming in on
the planes was a miniscule part of the overall.

Asked about the distribution of medicine and medical supplies, he said that
under the programme, medicine was brought in bulk for both the north and the
south. Everything was distributed from a central warehouse through
accredited pharmacies and regulated. Drugs were available through the
pharmacies and hospitals. Many were free, but for some, patients were
charged a nominal amount. If the question referred to expensive nasal sprays
that had found their way to Syria and Lebanon, he said the case was being

Asked if it was his job to determine if the cargo was not contraband
military goods, he explained his office did not certify the arrival of the
goods. There were professional inspectors who did the inspections. He had
suggested to the committee that the task be entrusted to them.

Asked why there was a difference in the distribution of goods whereby the
Kurds in the north, who constituted 15 per cent of the population, received
proportionally more than the rest of the country, he said that the Kurds
received 19 per cent of the money, because the north had suffered greatly
from the war and deserved a higher proportional amount. He thought that
improvement in nutrition in the north was due to differences in
distribution, or the fact that the United Nations was responsible for
implementation of the programme in the north. The difference in geography,
topography, vegetation, the greater availability of water and agricultural
and the smaller population all contributed to the situation in Kurdistan.
The south and centre of the country had serious difficulties with water and
sanitation. In the extreme south, not much attention had been given to
sanitation and water, and successive wars had taken their toll. Child
mortality was far greater in the south and centre than in the north. There
were many children with gastrointestinal diseases who were repeatedly

Asked whether the United Nations monitored luxury goods that reportedly came
into Iraq through other countries, he said those things did not come through
the “oil for food” programme. Everything that came under the programme was
rigidly regulated. But Iraq had its own income, and the sales referred to
might be purchased with Iraq’s money from other sources.

However, he added that the resolution programme was “the only game in town”.
There was nothing else that much of the population could look to.

Asked if the Iraqis had a plan to stop the “oil for food” programme, he said
he had no information to that effect.

In response to a question about his success or failure to convince the
sanctions committee to release the holds on applications, he said he was
very cognizant of the committee’s information requirements. The main
responsibility of his office was to provide information to the committee, so
that it did not feel that certain goods needed to be put on hold. The new
observation mechanism should provide the committee with all the confidence
it needed to release the holds.

Asked about security concerns, he said his office had tightened its security
arrangements and the Government of Iraq took responsibility for the security
of foreign personnel seriously and had reinforced the diplomatic detail on
his office.

In reply to a question about whether the United Nations was satisfied with
Government action regarding the man deemed responsible for the kidnapping
and death of humanitarian personnel last June, he said he was still awaiting
the Government’s official report.

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