BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Persian Pashto Turkish French
BBCi CATEGORIES   TV   RADIO   COMMUNICATE   WHERE I LIVE   INDEX    SEARCH 

BBC News UK Edition
 You are in: World: Middle East  
News Front Page
World
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
-------------
From Our Own Correspondent
-------------
Letter From America
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
Education
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
CBBC News
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Tuesday, 1 October, 2002, 18:18 GMT 19:18 UK
Iraq's children suffer as war looms
Iraqi women with their children in a hospital in Basra, Iraq
War and sanctions have created a vulnerable population

The 1991 Gulf War has never really ended for most Iraqis, as the threat of another confrontation looms.

Iraqi child in hospital with her mother
Children fall sick due to inadequate water and sanitation systems
According to the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef), one in eight Iraqi children still do not make it to the age of five.

The terrible toll of 12 years of sanctions can be seen in the hospital wards.

Beds hold the tiny bodies of children like five-month-old Milad Hanoun, who has had acute diarrhoea for days.

New suffering

The white-faced baby girl is among countless children still falling victim to Iraq's damaged and dilapidated water and sanitation systems.


Iraqi children's right to a quality education is being violated, and that's a concern for the future of the whole country

Baghdad Unicef representative Carel de Rooy
In a country with no proper economy, the vast majority of Iraqi families rely on government food rations to survive - and some have to sell them to meet other basic needs.

Unicef says the situation had been getting progressively better since the UN's oil-for-food programme was introduced.

However, it and other aid agencies are now warning that war could wipe out recent gains and cause massive new suffering.

"There's been a steady improvement in malnutrition levels since 1997," says Carel de Rooy, the Unicef representative in Baghdad.

"But that is very tenuous. Malnutrition could revert to drastic levels if food distribution, which is undertaken flawlessly in this country, were to be interrupted."

Poor education

Last week, seven aid agencies operating in Iraq appealed to the British Government "not merely to take effective steps to avoid exacerbating the current humanitarian crisis but to seek ways to improve the humanitarian situation, while pursuing a diplomatic solution to the current crisis."

Woman with bag of food in Baghdad
The future of ordinary Iraqis is a major concern for aid workers

It warned: "Years of war and sanctions have already created an extremely vulnerable population whose ability to cope with any additional hardship is very limited."

Children have been hardest hit, with a whole generation now growing up with their future blighted by sanctions.

Take Iraq's collapsing education system. One in four Iraqi children now drop out of school.

At the "Age of Prosperity" school in the poor Shia suburb of Saddam City, on the edge of Baghdad, it is not hard to see why.

Children with no text books cram into classrooms with broken, boarded-up windows.

Rehabilitation needed

There is no running water in the school, no toilets and no electricity.

"We don't even have the very basics," says hard-pressed teacher Leila Mizal, who earns less than $5 a month.

"If something breaks we can't fix it. We do what we can but these are no conditions in which to teach."

They are also no conditions in which to learn.

"[At least] 8,000 schools need rehabilitation," says Mr de Rooy, of Unicef.

"But that is not possible because there is no cash component to the oil-for-food programme.

"Iraqi children's right to a quality education is being violated, and that's a concern for the future of the whole country."

As fears of a new war grow, the future of ordinary Iraqis is now a major concern for aid workers.

They say that renewed confrontation "risks deepening and extending the current humanitarian crisis, creating large numbers of civilian casualties and extending human suffering".


Key stories

Analysis

CLICKABLE GUIDE

BBC WORLD SERVICE

AUDIO VIDEO

TALKING POINT
See also:

01 Oct 02 | Middle East
30 Sep 02 | Middle East
25 May 00 | Health
14 Apr 00 | Middle East
30 Sep 02 | Middle East
01 Oct 02 | Middle East
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Middle East stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Middle East stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | World | UK | England | N Ireland | Scotland | Wales |
Politics | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology |
Health | Education | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes