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Erratum re: obesity in Iraqi adults

Hello all,

While slightly beside my point in yesterday's email that unavailability of
food is not the biggest problem in Iraq nor the most pressing reason why
sanctions should be lifted, there was a mistake in my posting that I would
like to correct.

It is not the case, as I wrote, that 'in May 2000 more than half the Iraqi
adult population was found to be obese', but rather that "more than half
the adult population has some degree of overweight" [FAO, 2000, p 23.].
The definitions used are normally that obesity is a Body Mass Index
(weight/height squared) of more than 30, and overweight a BMI of 25-30.
With these definitions, the level of obesity among adults in Baghdad is
30%.  Baghdad is obviously special in Iraq, but to give some idea of
comparison the figure in the USA as a whole is 33% BMI 30+.

I have seen a few letters from the FCO using this finding in an attempt to
to persuade the reader that all is going well in Iraq.  Apart from being
highly selective without the complementary mention of the continued high
malnutrition among children, it is also a very strange notion of 'better'.
The FAO wrote:

"The major reported causes of death in adults are heart disease,
hypertension and diabetes, all conditioned by obesity.

Obesity is found in both poor and rich sectors of society alike and may be
due to several causes, including inappropriate diet, lack of physical
activity and lifestyle. One factor may be the relatively high carbohydrate
content of the rations which reaches all households at the expense of
quality proteins and micronutrients. Physical activity of adults has been
reduced due to unemployment and the adoption of sedentary lifestyles. This
change of lifestyle has probably been cumulative for some years as there
was already evidence of a major degree of overweight as observed in
Baghdad and Kerbala by the 1997 Mission. Obesity is not a new phenomenon
to the region but it is likely that the long-term abnormal situation of
Iraqi families contributes to this condition." [p. 23]

The full FAO May 2000 report can be found on  While a
little dated now, perhaps, it has some information of relevance to the
discussion between Rahul and Dirk about child malnutrition.  Four years
after goods started arriving under the 'oil for food' programme, it gives
as an explanation for the continuing problem of child malnutrition that
"malnutrition, especially child malnutrition, is often caused by factors
other than those related to food", notably "disease and unsafe water"
[p.34]. The report also implicates overcrowding, poverty, and the lack of
education. The conclusion is that "significant improvement in the health
and nutrition status of the vulnerable population, and of children and
mothers from these households in particular, cannot be achieved without
improving these contributing factors" [p.35].

Some of the findings of the report and their implications are summarised
in a previous CASI newsletter, on

Per Klevnäs

Research Co-ordinator, Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq                  tel: +44 (0)1223 329 131          mob: +44 (0)7990 501 905

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