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Sunday, October 17, 1999 Published at 12:52 GMT 13:52 UK

World: Middle East

'Iraq child death rates still high'

Ms Bellamy sees what is for dinner at a Baghdad school

Child death rates are high in Iraq, but United Nations sanctions are not the only reason, a senior UN official has said.

The BBC's Barbara Plett: "The Unicef survey sparked a controversy"
The head of the UN children's fund, Unicef, Carole Bellamy, was speaking at the end of a five-day trip to the country.

She said Unicef reports showed that the death-rate for children has more than doubled since the embargo was imposed nine years ago.

"Child mortality rates are still as high as they were," she said, referring back to a Unicef survey published in August.

Mortality rates doubled

[ image: Bellamy:
Bellamy: " Child mortality rates still as high as they were" in August
The report showed mortality rates among children under five years had more than doubled in government-controlled areas since introduction of the sanctions.

The sanctions were imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. From a rate of 56 per 1,000 in 1989, infant mortality went up to 131 per 1,000 in the period 1994-1999.

Under the UN's oil-for-food programme, begun in 1996, Iraq is allowed to export limited amounts of its oil under international monitoring.

The Unicef report sparked a controversy between Iraq and the United States over who is to blame.

Baghdad said it proved that sanctions are killing thousands of children every month.

The US alleges that Iraqi inefficiency and obstructionism are also key factors.


[ image: Ms Bellamy was shown a vaccination programme at a Baghdad children's hospital]
Ms Bellamy was shown a vaccination programme at a Baghdad children's hospital
Ms Bellamy said the Iraqi government could take some steps to improve the situation.

She recommended stopped the distribution of formula powered milk and encourage breastfeeding in order to reduce diseases.

"I have raised the issue of breastfeeding and the removal of infant formula from the food basket (with Iraqi officials) but I did not receive a commitment," she said.

She urged the Iraqi government to distribute therapeutic milk and high protein biscuits bought under the oil-for-food programme to underfed and underweight children.

She said these two items were undergoing health tests in Iraqi warehouses before they could be distributed.

Sanctions committee

Ms Bellamy said she would plead the cause of Iraq's children before the UN sanctions committee.

"We will advocate with the government of Iraq, we will advocate with the international community the right of the children to get a good education and good health care.

"It isn't a matter of feeling sorry for children," shetold a press conference.

"Sanctions are tools that are used, they are decided by others than Unicef, but we would urge that in imposing them to take into account the implications for children."

The 15-member committee regularly assesses the sanctions imposed against Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait 1990.

It agreed to hear Unicef's testimony after the United States and the UK lifted their objections.

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