War in Iraq Has Doubled Malnutrition Among Iraqi Children

April 10, 2005

The Associated Press reported on March 31 that the war in Iraq has almost doubled malnutrition rates among Iraqi children.

According to Jean Ziegler, a Swiss sociology professor and the UN Human Rights Commission's special expert, acute malnutrition rates among Iraqi children under five rose late last year to 7.7 per cent from four per cent after the ouster of President Saddam Hussein in April 2003.

Malnutrition is a major child-killer in poor countries, and children who manage to survive are physically and mentally impaired for the rest of their lives and more vulnerable to disease.

Ziegler states that the situation facing Iraqi youngsters is "a result of the war led by coalition forces." Overall, "more than one-quarter of Iraqi children don't have enough to eat," Ziegler told a meeting of a 53-country UN commission, which is halfway through its annual six-week session.

In November, the Norwegian-based Fafo Institute for Applied Social Science also released a report that found malnutrition had reached 7. 7 per cent among Iraqi children between the ages of six months and five years. Officials from the institute, which conducted a survey with the UN Development Program and Iraq's Central office for Statistics and Information Technology, said the Iraqi malnutrition rate is similar to the level in some hard-hit African countries.

Late last year, Carol Bellamy, head of the UN children's agency UNICEF, said there was little relief workers could do to ease the plight of Iraqi children because fighting hampers or prevents most aid operations in the country.

Ziegler also cited an October 2004 U.S. study that estimated as many as 100,000 more Iraqis -- many of them women and children -- had died since the start of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq than would normally have died.