Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq


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Press Release

17 February 2003, 10:00 GMT - For Immediate Release

For more information contact:
- Roger Normand, CESR Executive Director, +1-718-237-9145 ext. 12,
- Sarah Zaidi, CESR Research Director, +1-718-237-9145 ext. 19,
CASI (in the UK):
- Glen Rangwala, 07880 665731,
- Jonathan Stevenson, 07818 651124,

Over 1 Million Iraqi Children Might Die in War - Secret UN Document

A newly-obtained confidential UN document predicts that 30 percent of children under 5 in Iraq, or 1.26 million, "would be at risk of death from malnutrition" in the event of a war. The draft document, "Integrated Humanitarian Contingency Plan for Iraq and Neighbouring Countries", was produced by the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on 7 January 2003. Its release comes as aid agencies and government representatives meet urgently in Geneva to discuss humanitarian operations in the event of war."

The document, available at, contains the following key assessments:

  • "In the event of a crisis, 30 percent of children under 5 would be at risk of death from malnutrition" [p. 3(5)]. With 4.2 million children under five in Iraq [p. 3(5)], this represents 1.26 million children under five.
  • "the collapse of essential services in Iraq ... could lead to a humanitarian emergency of proportions well beyond the capacity of UN agencies and other aid organizations" [p. 4(6)]
  • "all UN agencies have been facing severe funding constraints that are preventing them from reaching even minimum levels of preparedness" [p. 1(3)]
  • "the effects of over 12 years of sanctions, preceded by war, have considerably increased the vulnerability of the population". [p. 3(5)]
  • "WFP [World Food Programme] estimates that approximately 10 million people ... would be highly food insecure, displaced or directly affected by military action" [p. 11(13)]
  • "in the event of a crisis, only 39 percent of the population would be serviced [with water] on a rationed basis" [p. 12(14)]
  • "UNHCR estimates that up to 1.45 million refugees and asylum-seekers may seek to flee Iraq in the event of a military conflict" [p. 9(11)]
  • "Up to 900,000 people may be displaced in addition to the 900,000-1,100,000 existing IDPs [internally displaced persons]" [p. 10(12)]
  • [from tables on p. 12(14)]
    5,210,000 are highly vulnerable children under five and pregnant and lactating women.
    500,000 potential direct and indirect casualties (overall population).
    3,020,000 at nutritional risk (overall population).
    18,240,000 might need access to treated water.
    8,710,000 may need sanitation facilities.

Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq (CASI) co-ordinator, Jonathan Stevenson, said:

"These UN estimates reveal that the people of Iraq are facing a humanitarian crisis of overwhelming severity. The $30m of emergency aid offered to handle this - little more than $1 per Iraqi - is wholly inadequate. Tony Blair talks of a moral case for war, yet once again the indications are that no serious responsibility is being taken for the impact of UK policies on Iraq civilians."

The OCHA document is one of three internal UN documents released jointly by the New York-based Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) and CASI. The document was obtained by the CESR from UN personnel who believe that the potential humanitarian impact of war is a matter of global public concern that should be discussed fully and openly.

Notes to journalists:

1. The OCHA document is available at

2. Please note this UN document is a draft. Estimates and other content may have since been revised. Please also note that a page reference above to, for example, [p. 3(5)], denotes page 3 in the number scheme of the original document, which is the 5th page in the PDF version hosted on the CASI website.

3. On Thursday 13 February, UN agencies revised their funding requirements for preparedness measures for a possible conflict to a total of "about $120 million" (see As of then, it was reported, some $30 million had been pledged after an initial request of $37.4 million.

4. A recent CESR document also released on Thursday 13 February warning that the international relief community is unprepared for humanitarian disaster in Iraq is available at

5. A 1993 case study in the Physicians for Social Responsibility Quarterly found that "the number of Iraqis who died in 1991 from effects of the Gulf war or postwar turmoil approximates 205,500" (see Beth Osborne Daponte, "A Case Study in Estimating Casualties from War and Its Aftermath: The 1991 Persian Gulf War",

According to an internal UN document, 'Likely Humanitarian Scenarios', dated 10 December 2002 and released by CASI in January: "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 full document is at

6. The Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq (CASI) is a Cambridge-based NGO which provides information about the humanitarian situation in Iraq and its context. It also aims to raise awareness of the effects of sanctions on Iraq, and campaigns on humanitarian grounds for the lifting of non-military sanctions. CASI's concerns are exclusively humanitarian: it does not take a position on war on Iraq, nor does it support or have ties to the government of Iraq.

7. CASI's website can be found at, and it can be contacted by email on


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