Despite the shifting strength of United Nations sanctions over the past decade, humanitarian agencies continue to struggle to help the Iraqi people rebuild the pieces of a once affluent society from the ruins of war.
and the Oil-for-Food Program
The first Security Council resolution for sanctions, adopted in August 1990 after Iraq's incursion into Kuwait, called for a full trade embargo barring all imports from and exports to Iraq, except for medical and humanitarian supplies. Subsequent Security Council resolutions have offered to modify the embargo terms, but the Iraqi government declined the reworked terms.
As the humanitarian crisis continued to grow in the six years after the war, the key members of the U.N. and the Iraqi government agreed in 1996 to the Security Council's Resolution 986, known as the Memorandum of Understanding, or the oil-for-food program. According to the agreement, Iraq could sell up to $1 billion of oil every 90 days with the understanding that revenue would be used to purchase humanitarian goods. The Security Council called the program, "a temporary measure to provide for the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people."
The ceiling on oil sales was lifted in 1999, allowing the Iraqis to export unlimited quantities of oil and ideally spend more of the resulting revenue on humanitarian needs as well as the repair of infrastructure destroyed during the Gulf War.
International assistance exists at varying levels of effectiveness throughout Iraq. Along with the U.N. the largest humanitarian entity operating within the country's borders there are a limited number of non-governmental relief organizations. These agencies assist with the rehabilitation of health, water and sanitation facilities, as well as with the distribution of food and medical supplies. The U.N. monitors distribution of oil-for-food supplies in the Kurdish-controlled regions of northern Iraq, while the Iraqi government monitors distribution in other areas.
This June, the U.N. approved an additional budget of $5 billion in humanitarian aid to Iraq. The funds are to be allocated to food and medical supplies, and repairing oil industry production facilities. Also in 2002, the U.S. State Department announced a new allocation of some $6.6 million to be used for aid to Iraqis living in the country, as well as those who are displaced.
According to the 2002 UNICEF country statistics, malnutrition and anemia in pregnant women has also led to a high mortality rate in children, and approximately 130 in 1,000 children under five die.
Eight hundred thousand children under five years old are chronically malnourished, according to a 2000 report jointly issued by the U.N., World Food Program and World Health Organization.
In April 2002, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, a member of the International Federation of the Red Cross, stated that a total of some 682,308 children under five had died over the past eleven years as a result of malnutrition and disease.
The Iran-Iraq War, the Gulf War and sanctions have also decimated the once-praised Iraqi education system through physical destruction and a lack of funding. According to UNICEF, 84 percent of Iraqi schools are in need of rehabilitation. UNICEF also reports that the oil-for-food program provides "a rather limited contribution" to the education system.
-- By Maureen Hoch, Online NewsHour