The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[casi] Britain: Charities warn 11 million Iraqis face starvation in event of war

Britain: Charities warn 11 million Iraqis face starvation in event of war

By Julie Hyland
15 March 2003

Some 11 million people would be at immediate risk of starvation if the US
proceeds with its war on Iraq, leading aid charities in the UK have warned.

In a briefing for MPs in the House of Commons on March 12, Care
International, Christian Aid and Save the Children warned that military
action could push 60 percent of Iraqis to the brink of starvation. Almost
half of Iraq’s population is aged below 14 years.

Raja Jarrah, programme director of Care International UK, said war would
cause chaos to transport, fuel and energy supplies and severely disrupt the
food ration system.

The implementation of United Nations sanctions over the past 12 years has
meant that 60 percent of the Iraq population is dependent upon the
government for food aid. These people would immediately “face hunger, if
not starvation” in the event of war. Distribution of food aid via the
45,000 outlets across Iraq would almost certainly grind to a halt,
especially as UN officials are withdrawn in advance of the bombing.
Although the Iraqi government doubled food rations last month, aid agencies
say poverty has meant many of the poorest families have sold some of it.

Jarrah explained, “About 90 percent of Iraq’s sewage treatment stations are
vulnerable if the electricity goes down, leading to polluted drinking water
and dire public health consequences.

“Whilst we can’t predict the exact consequences of war, we can predict that
they will be dire and, for many households, catastrophic.”

He warned that there was “no evidence” that the world was “prepared for
that scale of disaster”.

The charities, which provide humanitarian assistance within Iraq, said many
people’s living conditions were already so fragile that they would not be
able to cope with any further deterioration.

CARE International had previously reported, “The Iraqi people are already
living through a terrible emergency. They do not have the resources to
withstand an additional crisis brought about by military action.”

In a briefing before UN Security Council members in January, Margaret
Hassan, Director of CARE Iraq, reported that for more than a decade the
country has been suffering a humanitarian crisis in food, water, health
care and education.

As a consequence of the 1991 war and UN sanctions, chronic malnutrition
among children under five years has soared from 18.7 percent in 1991 to 30
percent in 2000 and infant mortality has risen by 166 percent. One-third of
all children no longer attend school. Electricity, essential for many
services, is available for less than 12 hours a day in many areas of the
country, whilst half a million tonnes of raw sewage is discharged daily
into water sources—300,000 tonnes in Baghdad.

The agency has said that if military action goes ahead, in addition to
immediate food shortages, 39 percent of the population will have no access
to clean water, and 5 million will lack access to health care.

Giving evidence on behalf of Save the Children, director general Mike
Aaronson said food aid currently distributed to 16 million people would be
cut off during military action. Yet there “is little evidence that
government and international agencies are addressing how they will ensure
people are fed during and after a war, and how they will ensure access to
clean water and other health essentials”.

Kurds in Northern Iraq would be greatly affected. Save the Children
estimate that 60 percent of the Kurdish population live in poverty on
average incomes of $3-6 a day. Baghdad currently supplies monthly food
rations to the north, which is almost entirely dependent on outside
assistance to meet its requirements.

“Conflict in Northern Iraq’s highly urbanised population would interrupt
food supplies and cut electricity, water and sanitation, which could result
in displacement on a very large scale and separating children from their
families,” Rob MacGillivray, Save the Children UK’s regional emergencies
adviser, has said. “If prompt humanitarian assistance cannot be delivered
in accordance with refugee status, the situation could become life
threatening. Access to remote mountainous areas is difficult, especially in
winter. Fuel is already in short supply and private food stocks will run
low in winter.”

The agency warns that “Iraqis living in south and central Iraq are even
worse off.” Military intervention would greatly exacerbate the humanitarian
crisis in Iraq and push the population “over the edge”, it reported.

The UN predicts that 2 million people could be made homeless by a war, many
of whom are expected to try to flee the country. Half a million would be
displaced within Iraq itself, and are likely to seek refuge in
Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq.

Aid agencies report that there are virtually no facilities to cope with
such numbers and that UN attempts to stockpile food and medicines in the
event of war are way behind schedule.

A World Food Programme appeal for $23 million to fund “an initial
contingency plan” that would provide meagre rations for 900,000 people over
10 weeks is also far behind target—having received just $7.5 million. The
children’s charity UNHCR has reported it has received just $16.3 million in
aid out of a required $60 million.

American and British claims to be acting in the best interests of the Iraqi
people in pressing ahead with plans to militarily enforce “regime change”
were “desperately incompatible” with the situation that would face millions
as a consequence of war, the UK charities warned.

Without a UN mandate, humanitarian efforts would be made even harder. “We
don’t want to be seen as handmaidens of belligerent governments and without
a UN mandate for the war we would find it hard to take money from the US or
British governments,” Will Day, chief executive of Care International UK,
has said.

Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To unsubscribe, visit
To contact the list manager, email
All postings are archived on CASI's website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]