November 22, 2004
Malnutrition among the youngest children in Iraq has nearly doubled since the U.S.-led invasion of that country, according to a survey done by Norwegian researchers, the United Nations and the Iraqi government. The survey discovered the rate of acute malnutrition in children under five years old shot up to 7.7 per cent from four per cent since the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The study was conducted by Iraq's Health Ministry in co-operation with Norway's Fafo Institute for Applied International Studies and the UN Development Program. The report, released by the Norwegian institute, said about 400,000 Iraqi children are suffering from "wasting" â€” a condition marked by chronic diarrhea and deficiencies in protein. "It's in the level of some African countries," said Jon Pedersen, deputy managing director of the Fafo Institute.
The World Food Program, a UN agency, reported in September that 6.5 million Iraqis were dependent on food rations. Its program in Iraq is aimed at providing food to more than 1.7 million children. Pedersen says given those statistics, he is baffled by the extent of the malnutrition problem in Iraq. "Given the fact that World Food Program has distributed a lot of food, it's quite clear that one could expect some malnutrition, but the level that there is, it's a bit difficult to explain."
The report offers some explanation, blaming deteriorating conditions in Iraq. Unreliable supplies of electricity have made it hard to boil water for safe drinking. In poor areas, people rely on kerosene to fuel their stoves but high prices and a lack of jobs has aggravated the health situation of Iraqis. The country's infrastructure is in disarray, including the sewer system. Sixty per cent of rural residents and 20 per cent of urban residents don't have access to clean water. Violence has also driven away international aid agencies, who provide food aid and medical help.
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