BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Persian Pashto Turkish French
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Middle East  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Thursday, 13 February, 2003, 22:05 GMT
Iraqis face famine and thirst
Iraqi refugees in 1991
Another war could spark a humanitarian crisis
Nearly half of the Iraqi population may be left without food or water in the aftermath of a war against the country, the United Nations has warned in a new report.

UN estimates
16 million or 60% of Iraqis dependent on government rations
Two million refugees expected (half inside Iraq)
500,000 people will need medical treatment in early stages of war
Two million children and one million pregnant or lactating women will need immediate "therapeutic feeding"
The document presented to the Security Council by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan added that the international community would need to contribute a further $80m to help alleviate the potential crisis.

And it noted that the shortages inflicted by conflict would come as a double blow in a nation which already faces severe food distribution problems as a result of sanctions.

Mr Annan was briefing ambassadors on preparations for humanitarian relief in Iraq, but officials were keen to stress that he still does not think war is inevitable.

Mass departure

A high proportion of Iraq's 23 million people currently depend on food rations provided by the Baghdad government.

If central distribution were disrupted - as it would be in a war - the UN estimates that these people would, at best, have six weeks worth of rations before food runs out.

Iraqi woman stands next to her family's food allocation for two months
Much of the country is already dependent on government food rations

Military action is also likely to destroy much of the country's sanitation infrastructure, leaving 50% of the population without access to drinking water.

The UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, has meanwhile estimated that some 60,000 Iraqis may flee the country.

The agency believes half the total would probably head for Iran, while the remainder would make their way to Turkey, Syria and Jordan.

'Misconstrued'

UN officials say food, medical supplies, shelter material and staff are being moved to the countries neighbouring Iraq.

But many officials have been concerned that if contingency planning goes too far, it could appear as if the UN believes war in Iraq is inevitable.

"Contingency planning should not be misconstrued," said the UN's emergency relief co-ordinator Kenzo Oshima. "It is simply a matter of prudence."

"Nevertheless we must recognise that conflict might occur and cause terrible suffering to the Iraqi people."

Donor countries have pledged nearly $40m to help deal with any humanitarian crisis, but Mr Oshima said they needed to give much more - estimating that at least $120m was needed.


Key stories

Analysis

CLICKABLE GUIDE

BBC WORLD SERVICE

AUDIO VIDEO

TALKING POINT
See also:

05 Feb 03 | Middle East
11 Feb 03 | Middle East
04 Feb 03 | Middle East
23 Jan 03 | 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 | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes