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Who's killing the children?

Western officials are unimpressed with an Iraqi report to the United Nations that the death rate amongst Iraqi children under five years old has quintupled since the imposition of trade sanctions against Baghdad in August 1990. They say that responsibility for the sufferings of the Iraqi people lies with Saddam Hussein, not with the international community.

Citing statistics from Iraq's Child Welfare Organisation, a letter submitted by Iraq to the UN in New York reported 3,800 child deaths in August 1992, compared with 2,289 in August 1991 and 712 in August 1990. "The main cause of this tragedy is malnutrition and the severe shortage of vaccines and other medicines", said the letter.

In the period from August 1990 to August 1992 there were 61,442 deaths of children under five "as a result of the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq since August 1990". In the same period, the total number of deaths among children aged five years and over totalled 6,362 per month, compared with 4,872 per month in 1991 and 1,833 per month in 1990.

The Iraqi letter, circulated as an official Security Council document, reported that low birth weight occurred in over 17.5% of all newborn babies, compared with proportions of 10.8% and 4.5% in 1991 and 1990, respectively. This, said the letter, "reflects the impact of the absence of good nutrition essential for the welfare of pregnant women."

In addition, the Iraqi document claimed that 41 hospitals, 20 health centres, 57 "social welfare establishments" (including creches, institutes for the disabled and orphanages) had been damaged or destroyed "as a result of the coalition's aggression". A total of 205 kindergartens and 1,767 primary schools had been damaged.

The Western view is that the deterioration of health conditions within Iraq is entirely the responsibility of Saddam Hussein's regime. UN resolutions provide for the supply of foods, medicines and other humanitarian goods, provided that these are distributed equitably to all parts of Iraq, under UN supervision. To fund such imports, Iraq can sell its oil on condition that a percentage of revenues is set aside for compensation for the victims of its aggression against Kuwait. Baghdad, however, refuses to accept these arrangements, arguing that they entail violations of its sovereignty.

"We have considerable sympathy for the plight of the Iraqi civilian population who are suffering as a result of their government's policies," a Foreign Office spokesman in London told the The Middle East. "We continue to press the Iraqi government to observe all relevant UN Security Council resolutions and in particular Resolution 688 which requires Baghdad to cease oppressing its own people and co-operate with the international humanitarian effort to which Britain is a major contributor."
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Title Annotation:Current Affairs; rising child mortality rate in Iraq
Publication:The Middle East
Date:Jul 1, 1993
Previous Article:Iraq: a country set adrift.
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