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Further information on the omissions and withholdings attendant on the publication of this internal UN document are provided at

Some comments in response to Frank Kaplan's Slate magazine article "How many dead Iraqis?" can be found at



10 December 2002



1.   In presenting the present paper it is not presumed that was[r] is not inevitable. However, for planning purposes, and as requested, certain assumptions are made in preparing for eventualities should hostilities occur. Unlike the progression of the military intervention in 1991, a future confrontation is expected to develop beyond the preparatory, and relatively short, aerial bombardment of infrastructure, towns, and cities into potentially a large scale and protracted ground offensive, supported by aerial and conventional bombardment. The resultant devastation would undoubtedly be great. Initially, access to those in need would either be denied by one or other of the protagonists or severely hampered by security or safety concerns. Additionally, logistics, particularly the ability to move with any degree of freedom, will be a major constraint.

2.   There is a temptation is some quarters to equate the situation following any future military intervention in Iraq, with the population's ability to cope in 1991. Such comparisons are not valid, as the sustentative majority of the population, immediately prior to the events of 1991, were in full employment and had cash and material assets available to them to cope with the crisis. Aside from now not having been gainfully employed for some time, during the intervening period, all except the most privileged have completely exhausted their cash assets and have also in most cases disposed of their material assets. Accordingly, the bulk of the population is now totally dependent on the Government of Iraq for a majority, if not all, of their basic needs and, unlike the situation in 1991, they have no way of coping if they cannot access them: the sanctions regime, if anything, has served to increase dependence on the Government as almost the sole provider.

3.   There is also the temptation to draw comparisons between the situation in Afghanistan following the military intervention of 2001/2002 and the situation, which is likely to be facing Iraq in a post conflict scenario. Aside from having similar population figures -- almost 26 million in Afghanistan and approximately 26.5 million in Iraq -- such comparisons are simply invalid. The population in Afghanistan is predominantly rural. Furthermore, over time the Afghan population has become used to being less reliant on the state -- there has been no all-encompassing "state machinery" in Afghanistan -- and the Afghans have therefore been more self-reliant. The situation in Iraq, however, has been the reverse: a relatively urbanized population, with the state providing the basic needs of the population as a matter of Government policy. As households have generally become poorer during the course of the sanctions regime, the Iraqi people have become even more reliant on the state to meet their basic needs.

4.   Furthermore, notwithstanding the sanctions regime, the Iraqi people are relatively sophisticated in their needs. Quite simply, the Iraqi society has become accustomed to a reasonable standard of services that are provided under the auspices of, or directly by, the state. However, with the foreseen degradation of infrastructure in general, and electricity in particular, on which the provision of the services concerned are heavily dependent on, many of these services are not likely to be available following a conflict.

5.   Accordingly, in assessing the likely humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people during the post conflict situation, the following assumptions would appear to be justified:


[page 2]

  1. The electricity network will be seriously degraded because of damage to generating plants and the transmission and distribution networks. The damage to the electricity network will also result in collateral reductions in capacity in all sectors, particularly water and sanitation as well as health.
  2. The port of Umm Qasr will be largely unavailable as it will in all probability either be blockaded or suffer significant damage in the preliminary stages of any hostilities. Accordingly, it cannot reliably be predicted whether any capacity in the port will be available for humanitarian activities.
  3. The railway system will be significantly degraded as a result of damage to bridges, culverts and tracks.
  4. Road transportation vehicles and depots will suffer considerable damage and, as a consequence, there will be a significant degradation of the already poor transportation system.
  5. As Iraq is trisected by two major river systems which flow north-south and as most, if not all, major bridges will be destroyed or damaged, east-west movement of goods and people will be on a restricted basis. Furthermore, the rivers are of such a depth that fording is not possible and there is an almost total absence of lighters, ferries and the like.
  6. Damage to the electricity network will result in collateral reductions in capacity in all sectors, particularly water and sanitation as well as health.
  7. There could be significant damage to existing Government stocks of all commodities.
  8. The production and export of crude oil as well as production of petroleum products mostly for domestic consumption will have ceased, and the facilities holding existing reserve stocks will have been significantly damaged.


[page 3 withheld]

[page 4]

Needs Assessment

11.   As stated earlier in paragraph 2 above, there are some 60 per cent of the population -- 16 million people -- highly dependent on the monthly "food basket" -- they "consume" all the commodities provided, (by consuming or selling part to mitigate other needs), as they have no other means with which to provide for other essential requirements.

12.   In the three northern governorates, there will be an immediate need to establish an alternative source of supply for the items provided in the "food basket", for the entire population of about over 3.7 million people: the population in the three northern governorates. Given the probable course of the conflict, the current established delivery system of foodstuffs and necessities from Mosul and Kirkuk is not likely to be available from the outset of hostilities because of their location, south of the dividing line. Of the total population in the three northern governorates, approximately 2.2 million will be highly dependent on the food distribution system.

13.   The loss of electricity to Dahuk, while having major consequences at the household level, should not immediately impact the provision of humanitarian services. Assuming the level of conflict is low throughout the three northern governorates, and based on the recent UN observations of small and medium sized electricity generators in those governorates, and a 29 MW generators in each of the three governorates, there appears to be sufficient capacity available, supplemented by the delivery pipeline of additional generators under already approved contracts to provide backup electricity supply to "emergency" facilities. This is a factor that will be taken into account when determining the final position of the small and medium generators already made available under the humanitarian programme.

14.   It will be necessary, however, to establish a supply line for fuel. It is estimated that in the three northern governorates the monthly requirement of fuel1 is approximately 30,000,000 lts. of gasoline, approximately 30,000,000 lts of diesel, about 40,000,000 lts of Kerosene, and about 10,000 tons of cooking gas. However, there is very limited storage capacity in the three northern governorates and the available refining capacity would be insignificant.

15.   Elsewhere in the country, particularly in the "Centre Region" and "Baghdad", given the likely intensity of any conflict, particularly in the preparatory and initial stages, it is probably that the infrastructure will be severely damaged as a result of aerial and ground bombardment or by the withdrawing Government forces. Infrastructure, particularly that relating to oil production; transport,.i.e., vehicles and depots; ports; railways; roads and bridges; and electricity production can expect to be especially hard hit. As a result, the availability of potable water is likely to be curtailed extensively. The infrastructure, including private and commercial vehicles, which are still available, may well be allocated by the Government to other than humanitarian purposes. In any event, the logistical aspects of the humanitarian response will require a substantial amount of specialized assets and the absence of such assets in sufficient quantities will probably be a major constraint, until some degree of rehabilitation, albeit of a temporary nature, occurs. Fuel, in the worst case, may have to be imported.

1 Based on the latest estimates by the United Nations personnel operating in the three northern governorates.


[page 5]

16.    However, it is improbable that the level of services being provided by the Government would cease simultaneously for the total population. Rather, it is probable that there would be a progressive run down and eventual cessation of distribution of commodities and the provision of services. If one presumes that potential military intervention will roll simultaneously from the south and the north, the peripheral governorates of Basrah, Maysan, Thi Qar, Muthana, Najaf, Kerbala, and Qadisiyah in the south and Ninewa and Tameem in the north will be immediately affected.

17.   The population in immediate need of humanitarian intervention and that are expected to be accessible, i.e., those in the south, would then total 5.4 million2, to which must be added a further 2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees3, a part of the estimated 900,000 destined for Iran and the 50,000 to Saudi Arabia, from Baghdad and the Centre Governorates. Accordingly, the total caseload beneficiaries would total 7.4 million. While there will requirements that will need to be addressed in the other governorates, as previously stated, it is considered that either access will be denied by the warring parties or it will be impracticable because of the prevailing security situation.

19.   Given the 21 or 22 days a month that food stuffs are being distributed, approximately one million people are entitled to receive their ration on any of those days. It can also be assumed that of these 600,000, or 60 percent of the recipients referred to in paragraph 11 above, will be highly reliant on the ration for their household food requirements. Additionally, because the distribution cycle relates to distribution agents, and not to individuals, commodities will not be available in certain localities, should the agents concerned do not receive their consignments or not be in place. Accordingly, the need will be concentrated in these areas rather than evenly distributed throughout the country. Such pockets will unfortunately exist in each district and governorate.

20.   The recent trend by the Government of issuing the monthly food basket on a two monthly cycle potentially places more food in the household. However, based on anecdotal information, the World Food Programme (WFP) believes that the many poor families, and therefore with the least food security, are selling the "additional" food received to generate income in order to meet their other essential requirements. The current shortage in some commodities from the food basket, especially pulses -- the main source of protein -- also mitigates the benefit of the increased issue of food supply. As a result, most household food reserves would not last two months if distribution were interrupted or suspended.

21.   Throughout the country, there are some 43,000 Food and Flour agents4, and the monthly food distribution is dependent on the present system continuing to function to a high degree of efficiency. This institution is immense, and any disruption to its organization would seriously hamper the distribution of food, as referred to in paragraph 19 above. Because of the degree of dependence of the population as a whole on the monthly distribution of food and other necessities, it is not practical to target segments of the community directly when distributing foodstuffs. Accordingly, the continued use of food and flour agents is probably the most practicable medium for food distribution in the post conflict phase. Preserving what is presently there and replacing those portions of the network that suffer during the conflict phase, must be accorded high priority.

22.   With regard to the health sector, there will generally be some four months stocks of basic pharmaceuticals and medical supplies in the country to meet normal demand. This should not be

2 The 'war affected' population of the 'Southern Governorates'.
3 There will be movement both to and from the southern governorates, which it is assessed will, in terms of gross numbers, be equal.
4 Based on information provided to WFP by the Government.


[page 6]

read, however, as an indication that there is a full range of medical items available, as there are some particular items which are presently in short supply, or non-existent. The expected increase in the instances of diarrhoeal disease and respiratory infections resulting from the conditions experienced in a post-conflict scenario, for example the absence of potable water and contaminated air (e.g., should oil fields be put ablaze, similar to what happened in Kuwait), as well as over-crowding, traumatic injuries, and a lack of refrigeration, would translate into an increased demand and consumption of medical supplies and drugs, rendering the existing stocks inadequate.

23.   It is also likely that in the early stages there will be a large segment of the population requiring treatment for traumatic injuries, either directly conflict-induced or from the resulting devastation. Given the population outlined earlier, as many as 500,0005 could require treatment to a greater or lesser degree as a result of direct or indirect injuries.

24.   The children under 5, pregnant and lactating women, and IDPs will be particularly vulnerable because of the likely absence of a functioning primary health care system in a post conflict situation. In the centre and south it is estimated that these groups represent a total caseload of 5.2 million people6, 4.2 million under 5, with one million pregnant and lactating women, plus a further two million IDPs. Using purely per capita ratios and "poverty and environmental patterns", 1.23 million of these will be in the southern governorates, to which the United Nations is more likely to have access, and accordingly will need immediate humanitarian interventions. This figure requires further refinement in order to take account of the infirm, the chronically ill, and the elderly.

25.   Furthermore, the outbreak of diseases in epidemic if not pandemic proportions is very likely. Diseases such as cholera and dysentery thrive in the environment, which will prevail and as a result of circumstances and the present low vaccination rates for measles, meningitis and the like will be ever present. When determining the requirement for pharmaceuticals and medical supplies these factors must be considered.

26.   As with other sectors, the requirement for health supplies will vary with time. Although some of the initial dependency will reduce with time, for example as conflict-related injuries are treated in a particular area, and as some find alternative solutions to satisfy their needs, others will become dependent on the system. It is probable that, in the foreseeable future, the number of additional beneficiaries will exceed those who may find alternative solutions. Accordingly, the need in this area will continue to grow in the short and medium term, because of the general environment and the limited alternatives available to the population.

27.   It is estimated that the nutritional status of some 3.03 million7 persons countrywide will be dire and that they will require therapeutic feeding. This consists of 2.03 million severely and moderately malnourished children under five and one million pregnant and lactating women. While not all the vulnerable children identified in paragraph 24 above will require therapeutic feeding, all pregnant and lactating women will. Furthermore, using a straight population ratio, a little over half a million of the above persons, will be in the southern governorates. Among the most vulnerable are the approximately 5,000 persons8 confined to institutions, comprising orphaned children, the severely handicapped, and children in detention, and 21,000 elderly9. To those figures must be added patients in hospitals -- the total capacity of hospital beds is almost 27,00010 and although

5 Based on WHO estimates of direct, 100,000, and indirect, 400,000, casualties.
6 UNICEF estimate.
7 UNICEF estimate.
8 Based on information provided to UNICEF and WFP.
9 Based on information provided to WFP.
10 Data provided by the UN Health Sectoral Working Group in Iraq.


[page 7]

occupancy rates are not known they must be assumed to be high -- and prisoners. Although the number is not large, the dire circumstances in which they presently exist can only become worse and, consequently, their needs critical.

28.   Water treatment requires electric power and as this will, in all probability, be severely disrupted by any conflict, it is highly likely that it will remain so for some time. Accordingly, the availability of potable water will be at a premium. UNICEF estimates that some 39 percent of the population will need to be provided with potable water -- for a short while -- by treatment plants that have 'stand-by' electricity generation, although the water supply will be rationed. The access to potable water at present is not evenly distributed -- 70 percent of urban facilities have emergency generation while the percentage in the rural facilities is only 11 percent.

29.   Given the population affected in the southern governorates -- but not including IDPs and potential refugees but who have not yet left Iraq -- (a total of 5.4 million as indicated in paragraph 17 above), the immediate requirement would be to provide access to clean water for some 4.07 million people.11 It should also be noted that chemicals required for the treatment of water, i.e., chlorine and aluminium sulphate, and other consumables for the treatment plants with generation capacity will, in all probability, be limited.

30.   The sanitation system is another matter of serious concern. At present 500,000 metric tons of raw effluent are pumped daily into fresh water sources. At present, there are approximately 5 million people, 4 million of whom reside in Baghdad12, who have access to a sewerage network, relying on pumping stations, which are connected to the electricity grid. It is estimated by UNICEF that only 10 percent of these stations have backup generators. Lest this become a greater health hazard than it is at present, 5 million persons who are presently reliant on a sewerage network would require assistance with sanitation facilities.

31.   As in the case of health care, the dependency will in all probability continue to increase and a large proportion of the population is likely to remain dependent on outside assistance for an extended period. The rehabilitation of not only the electricity grid but also the water distribution network should receive most urgent attention.

32.   During any conflict, and in the immediate phase following it, a significant segment of the population will be displaced. The devastation of structures could be great. While in the urban areas, shelter will be easier to find through occupation of partially destroyed buildings as well as easier availability of make shift building materials, such options will not be available to those in rural areas -- for the local inhabitants as well as IDPs who have moved from the cities and towns into the rural areas -- in view of the absence of "makeshift" accommodation and recyclable building materials.

33.   In the initial stages of the emergency, access to those in need will be difficult. Accordingly while a large proportion of the population will initially be displaced, by the time humanitarian access is practicable, many of those displaced will have returned or found makeshift accommodation. Under the circumstances, a figure of 25 percent of the "war affected" population requiring some form of assistance seems to be realistic, although this figure would require further confirmation. Such a figure represents a beneficiary population of some 2 million requiring assistance with shelter. The numbers will of course fluctuate as more people are displaced and others find or construct semi-permanent housing.

11 UNICEF estimates.
12 UNICEF estimates.


[page 8]

34.   The beneficiary population will also present some particular concerns. It is to be expected that among those displaced, there will be significant numbers of 'unaccompanied minors' and 'female headed households'.

35.   It is estimated that there will eventually be some 900,000 Iraqi refugees requiring assistance, of which 100,000 will be in need of immediate assistance13. The number of refugees may in fact be much higher, although many of those with the resources and skills to resettle elsewhere have already done so. There is also the likelihood of transit camps established in Iraq adjacent to borders, with a population of perhaps as many as 500,000 people.14

36.   The number of refugees presently in Iraq, for which UNHCR is responsible, is approximately 130,000 persons15. While these will, in all probability, remain in country, perhaps joining those displaced, it is probable that UNHCR will initially be unable to provide the support required.

37.   The absence of a mine action programme in the center and south will exacerbate the difficulties experienced by the population vis-à-vis mine injuries. There is also presently no mine awareness education in the centre and south. While the rural population has acquired some knowledge in living in a mine-infested environment, most of the urban population will not have the information required.

38.   The areas along the borders with neighbouring countries of Iraq, and some areas around the dividing line with the three northern governorates presently under the control of Kurdish local authorities, are 'protected' by barrier minefields, and will therefore present a formidable hazard to refugees and IDPs. Additionally, the conflict will result in unexploded ordnance (UXO) becoming commonplace, particularly in the towns and cities, causing considerable casualities.

Summary of Scenarios

39.   Emergency: The immediate humanitarian interventions are likely to require:

  1. Bridging, material handling and transport16.
  2. Food and necessities for some 5.4 million people17.
  3. Health supplies to treat injuries for approximately 100,00018.
  4. Health supplies to treat the highly vulnerable for up to 1.23 million19.
  5. Health supplies to cater for the ongoing needs of 5.4 million20.
  6. Nutrition supplies for 0.54 million21.
  7. Water treatment equipment for 5.4 million22.
  8. Chemicals and consumables for 5.4 million23.
  9. Sanitation materials and chemicals24.

13 UNHCR estimates.
14 UNHCR estimate.
15 Based on UNCHR existing case load.
16 See paragraph 3.
17 See paragraph 17.
18 See paragraph 23.
19 See paragraph 24.
20 The 'war affected' population of the 'Southern Governorates'.
21 See paragraph 27.
22 The 'war affected' population of the 'Southern Governorates'.
23 The 'war affected' population of the 'Southern Governorates'.
24 See paragraph 29.


[page 9]

  1. Total range of services for 2 million IDPs, some of whom may well become refugees. The number that may eventually be in this category cannot be assessed with any confidence.25
  2. Emergency shelter for 1.4 million26.
  3. Family reunion facilities for unaccompanied minors.
  4. Facilities for 100,000 Iraqi refugees in neighbouring countries27.
  5. Mine Action activities, (demining, UXO clearance, mine awareness).

40.   Protracted Humanitarian Requirements: Following the immediate requirements referred to in paragraph 39 above, the humanitarian interventions are likely to be required for a protracted period of time, certainly longer than one year, and may include:

  1. Further bridging, material handling, and transport28.
  2. Milling and iodizing capacity29.
  3. Food and necessities for, at a minimum, 23 million30.
  4. Health supplies to treat injuries for approximately 0.5 million31.
  5. Health supplies to treat up to 23 million32.
  6. Nutrition items for 3.03 million33.
  7. Water treatment equipment for 18.24 million34.
  8. Chemicals and consumables for 18.24 million35.
  9. Sanitation materials and chemicals36.
  10. Total range of services for 2 million IDPs, some of whom may well become refugees. The number that may eventually be in this category cannot be assessed with any confidence37.
  11. Emergency shelter for 3.6 million38.
  12. Family reunion facilities for unaccompanied minors.
  13. Facilities for 1.4 million Iraqi refugees, 900,000 entering neighbouring countries and 500,000 remaining along the border but inside Iraq39.
  14. Initiatives to invigorate the economy.
  15. Livestock and plant production materials.
  16. Mine Action activities, (demining, UXO clearance, mine awareness).

Socio-economic recovery of Iraq

41.   It is essential that efforts be made as early as is practicable to begin the long process of recovery. It would not seem prudent to replace the "state provider" with a "humanitarian provider". This will only be possible if alternative coping mechanisms are put in place early in order to provide opportunities for employment of one form or other. It will also be critical to the success of any humanitarian intervention if the agricultural sector is revived most urgently.

25 See paragraph 17.
26 Assessed population in the 'southern Governorates' in need of emergency shelter.
27 See paragraph 35.
28 See paragraph 5.
29 Requirement to iodize locally available salt and mill locally available cereals.
30 Population of the centre and south.
31 See paragraph 23.
32 Population of the centre and south.
33 See paragraph 27.
34 Population of the centre and south, less the IDPs.
35 Population of the centre and south, less the IDPs.
36 See paragraph 29.
37 See paragraph 17.
38 Assessed population in the centre and south in need of emergency shelter.
39 See paragraph 35.


[begin page 10]

Debt protection

42.   A key facet of any rejuvenation of the economy will be the continued protection of both the public sector and individuals from external debts, variously estimated at between $100 and $150 billion. This is currently the case under the sanctions regime. Although the relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions may be revised or the present restrictions may be modified in a post conflict scenario, positive consideration should be given to maintaining -- at the least during the initial stage -- those provisions, which afford the protection necessary in order to permit rehabilitation of the economy.

[remainder of page 10, paragraphs 43-47, withheld]


[page 11]

United Nations access to programme resources

48.   It may well prove necessary to amend some of the existing Security Council resolutions to give the United Nations, including the UN agencies and programmes, authority to continue operating under resolution 986 (1995) and subsequent resolutions. They will need the ability to access assets on a continuing basis, particularly in the early stages of their humanitarian intervention. This appears to be an effective method of meeting this need. However, in the short-term, the fundamental position that all assets provided under the programme are owned by the Government will need to be maintained, in order not to enter into disputes over ownership.

49.   As has been stated earlier, it is assumed that almost from the outset of hostilities, exports of oil will cease, at least for some time. As part of the degradation of systems, institutions and infrastructure, oil production will stop and, apart from that held in storage in Ceyhan, in Turkey, which is very limited (less than one million barrels at present), export of oil and, therefore, generation of income available for programme implementation, will halt. Given this circumstance, the ability to access the programme assets, be they in cash or in kind currently in the delivery pipeline, is imperative until alternative sources of revenue are mobilized. Another course of action might be similar to that immediately in the aftermath of the Gulf War, where Member States advanced funds on the understanding that they would be reimbursed eventually.

50.   Accordingly, the need to obtain guidance from the Security Council and authorization on the utilization by the United Nations of programme assets in the pipeline of the oil-for-food programme would require urgent consideration.

[paragraphs 51-2 withheld]

Relations with and role of the military

53.   The United Nations agencies delivering humanitarian assistance will need to interact with the military authorities on the ground. Such interaction will have to occur regardless of whether the attack is sanctioned by the Security Council or not, although the circumstances will obviously influence the relationship. These contacts should be initiated preferably prior to the start of the conflict and should not be confined to issues related with the coordinates of the humanitarian operational sites.


[page 12]

54.   For years, as part of the debate over the role of the "post-modern armed forces" the military have attempted to carve a niche for themselves in the direct delivery of assistance instead of the previous stance of providing logistics and engineering support to humanitarian organisations. This is very much an uncharted field that has, a priori, more "cons" than "pros". US/DOD is the most proactive military establishment in the prosecution of such role -- see the extensive utilization of "military/civil affairs" staff in Afghanistan.

[paragraph 55 withheld]

56.   There are three matters on which early guidance is required, namely:

  1. The likely 'safe havens' in relation to the security phases, coupled with the need to retain 'critical staff', in locations in the region, but outside Iraq, that are not the designated safe havens.
  2. The desire to retain an independent presence in Iraq almost at all cost, notwithstanding the fact that phase V may be declared.
  3. The need to be able to access funds for emergency preparedness, despite the fact that no emergency for Iraq has been declared.
  4. Although not exclusively humanitarian issue, there is need to give early consideration, regarding the role, if any, of the United Nations regarding the post-conflict administration.
  5. A last outstanding matter, is the need for the UN to develop, simultaneously with the present Contingency Plan, a Plan "B": What would be the UN's role vis-à-vis Iraq if the conflict is avoided and sanctions are, at the least, suspended.



[page 13]


  • Direct and indirect casualties: 500,000
  • 5.21 million high vulnerable
Based on population of children
under 5, and pregnant and
lactating women.
  • 3.03 million (2.02 million severely and moderately wasted under-5 children; 1 million Pregnant and Lactating women requiring supplemental food).
Based on nutritional
supplementation required for
Pregnant and lactating women,
and for anticipated population of
acutely malnourished children
under 5.
Protection of the most vulnerable groups.
  • 5,000 persons confined to institutions,
    comprising orphaned children, the
    severely handicapped, children in
  • 21,000 elderly.
  • 0.15 million unaccompanied minors.
  • 0.13 existing refugees in Iraq.
  • major threat from UXO to children
    under 18.
  • Refugees at or near borders.
  • IDPs crossing to the three northern
Shelter and Non-Food Items
  • 460,000 Refugee-Like IDPs in need of
    shelter and Non Food Items
  • 970,000 IDPs in need of Non Food
        IDPs expected to use buildings
and schools for shelter. Need for
Non Food Items, especially
heaters and cooking facilities.


Please note: the above document is a transcription of the original, and as such may contain errors introduced in the transcription process. To be sure of an accurate text, please quote from the original document, available in PDF format at

Further information on the omissions and withholdings attendant on the publication of this internal UN document are provided at