Sanctions see Iraq child deaths double

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The Independent Online
CHILD MORTALITY in most of Iraq has more than doubled in the nine years since United Nations sanctions were imposed, a leading UN agency said yesterday.

Citing "an ongoing humanitarian emergency," the report by the UN Children's Fund (Unicef) said that in the south and centre of the country, controlled by Saddam Hussein, the death rate for children under five rose from 56 per 1,000 live births in the period 1984-89 to 131 per 1,000 in last five years.

The survey, prepared with the Iraqi government and the World Health Organisation, did not specifically blame trade sanctions for the crisis which has seen some 500,000 Iraqi children die since the Gulf War. But Unicef's director, Carol Bellamy, insisted sanctions be applied in ways that avoided harming children. Iraqis would not be experiencing such deprivation "in the absence of the prolonged measures imposed by the UN Security Council," the report said.

Its findings seem bound to intensify criticism that sanctions are not working - merely increasing the suffering of the ordinary civilian population, while doing nothing to hasten the downfall of President Saddam. But Britain, a prime advocate of sanctions and partner with the US in the low level continuing air war against Iraq, rejected the idea that sanctions were aimed at children.

The Foreign Office minister Geoff Hoon, pointed to the more stable child mortality rate in largely autonomous northern Iraq and said "sanctions could be lifted tomorrow" if Saddam complied with his international obligations."

Mr Hoon claimed a new Security Council resolution drawn up by Britain would release an extra $770m (pounds 478m) of aid to Iraq if passed. But Britain argues that Iraq's existing oil-for-aid programme allows Saddam to Baghdad to buy all the food and medicine the country needs.