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Posts Tagged ‘Baghdad’

Norway condemns bomb attacks in Iraq

Posted by African Press International on October 19, 2013

Norway condemns the bomb attacks in Iraq over the past few days, which appear to have killed more than 60 people. I am concerned by the recent surge in violence in Iraq. The situation in the rest of the region is serious, but we must not forget the tensions in Iraq,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.                                                                          

Over the course of the past few days alone, some 11 car bomb attacks have killed at least 60 people in several cities in Iraq, including Baghdad and cities in northern Iraq. No particular groups have claimed responsibility for the attacks, but there are deep divisions between the various political and religious groups in the country.

According to UN estimates, more than 6 000 people have been killed as a result of armed violence in Iraq over the past six months, and close to 15 000 have been injured. The security situation in Iraq has deteriorated steadily since the beginning of the year, and the level of violence is now at its highest since 2008.

“I am concerned about the humanitarian situation in Iraq and about the civilian population, who are affected by the increasing violence. Norway supports the UN’s appeals for an end to the violence,” Mr Brende said.

End

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Food security in Iraq has improved in the last decade – Less dependent on rations

Posted by African Press International on May 13, 2013

BAGHDAD/DUBAI,  – Food security in Iraq has improved in the last decade, as the American-led invasion brought an end to sanctions and a resumption of open relations between Iraq and t he rest of the world. 

Historically, Iraq’s vulnerability to food insecurity has been largely due to barriers to international trade – caused by two decades of wars and sanctions – which hindered the export of oil and import of food commodities. These barriers also affected Iraq’s ability to modernize the agricultural sector and employ new technologies; local production could not meet the country’s growing food needs.As such, even during the worst years of sectarian violence in the last decade, access to food improved on average, compared to the years under sanctions.

Recent history

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in 1980, just four percent of Iraqis were undernourished or “food deprived”, meaning they consumed less than the minimum energy requirement, which in Iraq is currently estimated at 1,726 kilocalories per person per day. Despite years of war with Iran in the 1980s, agricultural subsidies and food imports from the US and Europe helped keep the level of food deprivation low.

But when the UN leveled sanctions against Iraq in August 1990, and US government credits for agricultural exports to Iraq ceased, Iraq – almost completely dependent on imports for its food needs – saw food deprivation rise to 15 percent by 1996, according to FAO. Throughout the 1990s, food deprivation continued to climb, reaching a peak of close to one-third of the population in the late 90s, by some counts.

Humanitarian food supplies delivered through the UN’s Oil-for-Food Programme, initiated in 1995, helped ease the strain, but during the early to mid-2000s, the Public Distribution System (PDS) – the government’s subsidy scheme created in 1991 – remained “by far the single most important food source in the diet” for the poor and food insecure population, according to a 2006 report by the government and the World Food Programme (WFP).

Post-2003

Food deprivation levels began to fall just before the turn of the century, and the decline increased with the toppling of former president Saddam Hussein, which saw Iraq regain the ability to import freely. In the last decade, the country has experienced a “huge transformation”, as one observer put it.

In 2003, months after the invasion, a WFP survey found that 11 percent of the population lacked secure access to food, a large drop from the high of the 1990s.

While food insecurity was found to have risen slightly, to 15.4 percent, in a 2005 WFP-government survey, it fell right back down shortly afterwards.

Joint government-UN analysis of 2007 survey data found that 7.1 percent of the population was food deprived; this dropped to 5.7 percent in 2011, according to the Iraq Knowledge Network (IKN) survey.

The government credits an improvement in security, economic growth and increased humanitarian aid.

PDS

Whereas aid workers estimated 60 percent of the population was food aid-reliant during Hussein’s reign, the PDS is now essential only to the poor.

Sa’ad al-Shimary, a government employee from Baghdad, said his family used to be dependent on the PDS. “I don’t even need the food supplies we get from the ration card now,” he said. “I can buy good quality food from the markets, as everything is available now.”

But while the value of the PDS basket has diminished for most Iraqis (it now represents only 8 percent of the total cash value of food expenditures), it remains a major source of wheat and rice for 72 percent and 64 percent of households respectively, according to the 2011 IKN survey. (Iraq’s PDS is the largest in the world, according to the US Agency for International Development, providing virtually free basic food rations to any Iraqi; as such, it is not only utilized by the poor.)

The PDS is the source of more than one-third of Iraqis’ calorie consumption, and more than half of the poor’s consumption.

And at 35 percent, food continues to comprise the highest proportion of Iraqi household expenditures. Nearly one-quarter of IKN respondents said they used coping strategies to eat enough in 2011. In addition to the 5.7 percent of Iraqis now considered to be undernourished, an additional 14 percent would become undernourished if the PDS did not exist, according to the IKN.

Malnutrition

While the percentage of children under five who are underweight nearly halved from 15.9 percent in 2000 to 8.5 percent in 2011, according to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), conducted by the government and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), chronic and acute malnutrition indicators look less positive.

The percentage of children under five who are moderately or severely stunted (too short for their age) or wasted (underweight for their height) both increased – if only slightly – over the same period, a “worrying” trend, aid workers said, given the long-term impacts of malnutrition on mental development.

According to UNICEF, one out of every four Iraqi children suffers from stunted growth. High levels of chronic and acute malnutrition are a sign that mothers and children do not have access to quality food. While access to food has improved, stunting and wasting are difficult trends to reverse in a short period of time. As such, it may take years before improved access to food reflects in malnutrition rates across the board.

Impact of violence

Although the last decade has seen overall gains in food security, the sectarian violence of 2006-2007 did have a negative impact. For example, a WFP report based on 2007 data found that levels of food deprivation differed by area: in Diyala Governorate, one of the most volatile during the conflict, 51 percent of the population was deprived of food, while in the northern autonomous Kurdistan region, largely spared the consequences of the invasion, just one percent of the population suffered from food deprivation.

Here, too, there has been change. While in 2007, insecurity had a huge bearing on food security, the food insecure today are traditionally vulnerable groups – the illiterate, the unemployed, the displaced and female-headed households.

Iraq also faces new challenges to its food security, according to Edward Kallon, WFP’s director in Iraq, including rising global food prices, poverty, climate change, desertification and drought.

For more, check out this UN fact-sheet on food security and this presentation by UNICEF comparing the child indicators in Iraq over the last three to five decades. The bulk of statistics come from WFP/government surveys in 2003, 2005 and 2007; and UNICEF/government surveys in 2000, 2006 and 2011. This 2010 report on food deprivation analyzes 2007 data collected in a survey by the government and the World Bank, just as this 2012 report analyzes food security data from the 2011 IKN survey. The FAO has its own figures on food deprivation. The government has also tracked statistics on underweight children fr om 1991 through 2009.

 

af/da/ha/rz  source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Blistering black-outs in Iraq

Posted by African Press International on April 24, 2013

BAGHDAD/DUBAI,  – The electricity supply system in Iraq has suffered from decades of neglect and lack of new investment, according to the UN.

It has also suffered from previous wars: the Gulf War, for example, rendered all but two of Iraq’s 20 power-generating plants unoperational, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1991. Six months after the end of the war, Iraq had regained about two-thirds of its pre-war output, the report said, but a decade of sanctions made it difficult to replace spare parts and import supplies for repairs.By 2003, the government had managed to provide acceptable levels of electricity supply to Baghdad, but other governorates received less than the capital.

Electricity production took a major hit after the American invasion. Within a month of the incursion, daily energy production had dropped from 4,075 megawatts to 711 due to post-war looting and sabotage, according to the US Special Inspector for Iraq Reconstruction. By the time the Americans handed over power to an Iraqi interim government in June 2004, production had climbed back up to 3,621 megawatts per day.

Long-term investments made into electricity-generation capacity in recent years have not fully borne fruit, observers say, and have not been matched by similar investments into networks for electricity transmission and distribution. “It’s like pouring water into a leaking bucket,” said Sudipto Mukerjee, deputy head of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Iraq.

According to the UN’s Inter-Agency Information and Analysis Unit (IAU) in Iraq, the electricity supply system is “particularly unreliable and serves its users only a few hours each day.”

Iraqi households receive an average of eight hours of electricity from the public network, according to the 2011 Iraq Knowledge Network (IKN) survey, though the government promises to provide electricity 24 hours a day by the end of this year. In the 2011 IKN survey, seventy percent of respondents reported daily electricity cut-offs of more than 12 hours a day. An additional 26 percent had cut-offs of at least three hours a day. Summer temperatures in Iraq can surpass 50 degrees Celsius.

Conflicting views

Former president Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, is said to have discriminated against the Shia heartland in the south by providing them less consistent electricity access. Observers say electricity continues to be politicized by the government, more consistently provided to some groups for political reasons. However, aid workers say this is not reflected in the statistics.

IRIN interviews with two residents of Baghdad show part of this picture:

Sa’ad al-Shimary, a Shiite government employee, said: “Electricity is not a problem. The government supports us with 10 hours, and the rest we get from the private generator for only US$100 a month, so in my home I have 24 hours of electricity, as do most Iraqi families.”

But Mustafa Ahmed, a Sunni, disagreed: “Before 2003, electricity was bad, and now it’s worse. We used to get between 12 to 15 hours of electricity. Now, if we’re lucky we get eight hours a day.”

For more, see this UN fact-sheet on the electrical power sector and the IKN survey. In the latest issue of Middle East Report, Nida Alahmad of the European University Institute in Florence looks at American attempts to rebuild Iraq’s electricity supply immediately after the invasion.

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