Letter: Save the children of Iraq

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The Independent Online
Your report of the suffering in Iraq as a result of sanctions (Review, 8 January) was timely. I have been urging the foreign secretary to lift the sanction for years now.

During and after the First World War the economic sanctions of the allies caused similar suffering and death in Europe to women and children. But at that time there was a callousness towards the suffering of children and a prejudice against helping "enemy children" to the extent that British troops were even prevented from sharing their rations with them.

Eglantyne Jebb and her sister Dorothy Buxton founded the Save The Children fund in early 1919 to combat this situation. They went to Randall Davidson, Archbishop of Canterbury and asked him to appeal to the church of England on behalf of the SCF but he refused and did not think the Pope would be prepared to ask Catholics either.

But the sisters approached Pope Benedict XV who gave them 25, 000 when Eglantyne visited him and promised to help. He wrote two encyclicals in 1919 and 1920 asking Catholics round the world for help to alleviate the suffering of children. Following this the funds of the SCF increased tenfold.

On his death Eglantyne wrote: "Perhaps his action has achieved an even more important result in marking the beginning of a new era in which all the nations of the world will lay aside their selfish interests to work for the interests of mankind by safeguarding the children on whom the future of the human race depends".

Now apparently, whilst the public are no longer callous but caring and concerned, our government together with that of the United States are reverting to the unacceptable behaviour tolerated by all during the first world war.

They should understand that there can be no excuse whatsoever nowadays - not even laying the blame at Saddam Hussein's door - for a policy that condemns thousands of children to death.

Reggie Norton Faringdon, Oxon