IRAQ: UN report cites vast under-nutrition among children
BAGHDAD, 8 May 2006 (IRIN) - One in three Iraqi children is malnourished and underweight, according to a report released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Amman on 2 May.
“Under-nutrition should not be accepted in a country like Iraq, with its wealth of resources,” said UNICEF Special Representative for Iraq Roger Wright from the Jordanian capital, Amman. Wright added that ongoing insecurity served to deter parents from visiting health centres for essential services, while many health workers had been kidnapped or killed in different parts of the country.
According to the report, a full 25 percent of Iraqi children between six months and five years old suffer from either acute or chronic malnutrition. A 2004 Living Conditions Survey indicated a decrease in mortality rates among children under five years old since 1999. However, the results of a September 2005 Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis – commissioned by Iraq’s Central Organisation for Statistics and Information Technology, the World Food Programme and UNICEF – showed worsening conditions since the April 2003 US-led invasion of the country.
The problem is particularly dire in the south, especially in the provinces of Basra, Diala, Najaf, Qadissiyah, Salahuddin and Wasit, due primarily to a lack of health funding. Health ministry officials acknowledge that the public health situation remains below international standards, but expressed hope that the recently formed government in Baghdad would provide more funding.
“We expect that, with the new government, more investment will be made to the health sector and more children will be saved,” said senior ministry official Khalid Jomaa, who went on to complain that much of the funds initially earmarked for public health had been diverted to security issues.
Aggravating the situation further is the fact that recent price increases for fruits and vegetables have made it harder for families to provide their children with balanced diets. “My son is suffering from malnutrition because I can’t afford to give him a balanced diet,” said mother of three Salua Kamar. “With my large family, it’s impossible to buy good food for all of them.”
Health & Nutrition,
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]