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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 April, 2005, 15:07 GMT 16:07 UK
Iraq child hunger report denied
Iraqi children look at a shattered windscreen
The US and UK say Iraqi children are no hungrier because of the war
US and UK officials have denied reports that increasing numbers of children in Iraq are facing chronic food shortages and malnourishment.

A UN report last week said malnutrition in under-fives had almost doubled since the US-led invasion of 2003.

The UK government says hunger levels fell between 2000 when a Unicef survey was carried out and 2004 when the Iraqi Statistical Office did its own survey.

The US ambassador to the UN in Geneva also criticised the UN findings.

Last week's report, by UN hunger specialist Jean Ziegler, blamed the worsening situation in Iraq on the war led by coalition forces.

About 8% of Iraqi children are now going hungry compared with 4% under former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, Mr Ziegler told the UN Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva.

'Dramatic improvement'

Kevin Moley, the US ambassador to the UN in Geneva, dismissed Mr Ziegler's findings.

''First, he has not been to Iraq, and second, he is wrong," he said, adding Mr Ziegler had been a long-term critic of the Iraq invasion.

''The surveys that have been taken... have indicated that the recent rise in malnutrition rates began between 2002 and 2003 under the regime of Saddam Hussein,'' Mr Moley said.

''If anything, vaccination, food aid have improved dramatically since the fall of Saddam Hussein,'' he added.

The UK's Department for International Development says the Unicef and Iraqi statistics suggests a decline in child malnutrition from 17.3% in 2000 to 11.7% in 2004.

UK advisers in Baghdad are working with the Iraqi government on ways of reforming the food ration system to ensure that the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable families are protected.

"Reform is needed in order to reduce the burden on Iraqi finances of providing free food to everyone, and the negative effects this has on domestic agriculture and food traders," a government spokesman said.

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