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Last Updated: Friday, 13 May, 2005, 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK
Iraqi living standards 'plummet'

An Iraqi child and relative sit in a doorway in Baghdad (file photo)
Many Iraqis face erratic water and electricity supplies
Living conditions for Iraqis have plunged over the past 25 years with many households struggling to fulfil basic needs, an Iraqi-UN report says.

In 2004, a year after the fall of Saddam Hussein, some 22,000 households were questioned about their lives.

The study paints a "rather tragic situation of the quality of life", said Iraqi planning minister Barham Saleh.

He blamed the former regime, but the insecurity which has followed its fall is also seen as playing a key role.

Improving security will be crucial in lifting living standards in Iraq, now among the lowest in the region, according to the UN Development Programme's country director for Iraq.

"A country suffering from a difficult security situation cannot provide services to its population," Boualem Aktouf told the BBC news website.

"Although many people live close to health centres, schools and clinics, their quality is not guaranteed," he added.

It is highly likely that most households now have a lower real income than almost 25 years ago, said the report, entitled the Iraqi Living Conditions Survey 2004.

Almost a quarter of children aged between six months and five years old are suffering from chronic malnutrition, it said.

The report says that while the infrastructure exists to allow access to basic supplies - like electricity and clean running water - it is not reliable.

In some areas, the situation has worsened dramatically since the fall of the regime.

Iraqis living in Baghdad, for example, now only have about ten hours of electricity each day, half of what they enjoyed in 2003.

Mr Aktouf said it could take up to ten years to restore standards of living.

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