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Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’

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.


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The Syrians fleeing creating refugee problem in northern Iraq

Posted by African Press International on July 28, 2013

ERBIL,  – On an empty plot of land in northern Iraq next to a beauty salon and opposite a hotel on Erbil’s busy Shoresh Street, Mohammed Hassan sits on a patch of crumpled purple carpet with his wife and their two-year-old son.

Above their heads is a sloping roof of cardboard and blankets, draped over sticks. It offers scant shade from the searing midday sun and their faces are flushed.

Gesturing to a pair of metal crutches on the floor, 24-year-old Hassan peels back his left trouser leg to reveal a reddened, scarred stump.

“I was hit by a bomb in Aleppo,” he said, matter-of-factly. “I had the amputation surgery there and then we decided to leave to come to Iraq. There was nothing left and too much violence.”

Hassan, who travelled with his brother and family in a group of 11, has joined 153,000 Syrians who have fled across the border to the northern semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq.

Many have settled at Domiz Camp, around 60km from the border.

But beyond the gates of Domiz, there are an estimated 100,000 Syrian refugees living in towns and cities, around one third of whom live in the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, Erbil.

More than two years into the Syrian crisis, the cost of rent in Erbil is soaring due to demand from both refugees and expatriate oil workers, and savings and job opportunities are dwindling. As a result, some refugees are being pushed out onto the streets – creating an urban refugee problem that aid agencies warn needs an urgent response before it gets out of hand.

Overcrowded camp

Close to the city of Duhok, Domiz Camp was initially planned for 25,000 people but is now home to more than 60,000, testing sanitation and other services to the limit.

Due to the overcrowded conditions at Domiz, even those in the most desperate conditions in Erbil say they do not want to go back to the camp.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in some ways enables this by offering its Syrian refugees renewable six-month work and residency permits. This gives the new arrivals permission to work, access to public health care and education, and freedom of movement, so they are legally allowed to settle in regular communities.

Many of the Syrians arriving in Kurdistan are professionals and most have found work, enabling them to pay for accommodation, or they have found lodgings with friends and family.

Begging for scraps

But according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), in Erbil alone there are around 650 families living rough in partly-constructed buildings and makeshift shelters. Many more are sharing rooms in small apartments, bed-hopping between shifts.

“We have people living in unfinished houses, with no doors, walls, windows or roofs, and sometimes there are three families in each room,” explained Wiyra Jawhar Ahmed, the manager of the Protection Assistance Reintegration Centre (PARC) in Erbil, run by Swedish NGO Qandil, but mainly funded by UNHCR.

“They are collecting rotten food from outside shops and begging at restaurants for scraps. They are also being in some cases exploited by people here who are giving them work but for very low wages,” he added.

Hassan’s brother, whose wife and five children occupy a similar stick and blanket shelter 100m away, has found work on a construction site. But Hassan, who was also a labourer in Syria, says he cannot work because of his leg.

For now he is relying on charity from host communities, who on the whole have responded generously to TV and radio campaigns by supporting the refugees with food and bedding.

A KRG official acknowledged that some of the urban refugees may have been equally vulnerable in Syria, but he said they still had the same right to assistance as other refugees.

Stop-gap solutions

A new refugee camp was supposed to have opened just outside Erbil in May to accommodate people like Hassan and his family, but funding and planning bottlenecks mean it is not likely to be ready until September.

In the meantime, UNHCR, in conjunction with Qandil, is compiling a database of the most vulnerable urban refugees to whom one-time cash payments of US$225 (paid in two separate installments) are being made available.

So far, of the 250 Erbil refugee families classified as “extremely vulnerable”, due to physical disability, chronic illness and other problems, 156 have received money to help pay for healthcare and other basic needs.

Acknowledging this is only a temporary stop-gap, Qandil’s Ahmed told IRIN: “It is critical that we get these families into a camp as soon as possible so we can provide them with food, shelter and health care.”

He added: “We already have other groups of internally displaced persons (IDPs) here, many from the disputed Nineveh Province, and there are growing tensions with people begging.”

Oil-rich Kurdistan?

Rizgar Mustafa, mayor of Khabat, the district where the new camp will be located, blamed a lack of money for the delayed opening. He said the central government of Iraq in Baghdad had failed to support KRG and that international donor funding had also been slow to arrive.

“There is an assumption that Kurdistan is rich in oil and therefore rich in resources so we can provide for the refugees ourselves,” he sighed.

Kurdistan’s economy is booming, thanks to a raft of new oil discoveries and a rush of foreign investment, but the oil industry itself is yet to earn money for KRG, amid a long-running dispute about revenue rights with the central government in Baghdad. Kurdistan’s current oil production – around 200,000 barrels per day – is one tenth of Nigeria’s.

As such, Khabat said, KRG needs donor funding like any other country dealing with the spillover of the Syrian crisis: “The voice of our government is not as strong as that of Turkey and other established states and we have not received the same response as other places,” he said.

As of 22 July, the aid operation in Iraq had received 22 percent of needed funding, compared to 22 percent in Egypt, 25 percent in Turkey, 36 percent in Lebanon and 45 percent in Jordan, according to the latest funding update.

Strategic approach

But funding is just one part of the picture. Both KRG and UNHCR have come in for criticism for how they have responded to Iraq’s urban refugees.

In a report published last month, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) warned that while Iraqi Kurdistan started with a “positive, durable approach” to protect and integrate Syrian refugees, the lack of funding and political and technical support was “presenting substantial economic and social challenges”.

Sara Eliasi, a protection and advocacy adviser with NRC, told IRIN: “The government was very willing to receive these refugees but they didn’t necessarily envisage or understand the implications and the commitment that it would imply.

“They didn’t prepare and they didn’t plan for it and unfortunately the international community and international NGOs did not come in and fill that gap and provide a strategic approach.”

Prioritizing urban refugees

One UNHCR staff member admitted privately: “Urban refugees were not seen as a priority, even though they numbered far more than those in camps, but now we are all working together on a new strategy going forward to address the issues.”

Aurvasi Patel, acting head of UNHCR’s North of Iraq office, said: “In consultation with the Kurdish authorities, we implemented a joint response to the refugees living in camps as a strategic priority…

“However, in recognition of the fact that the needs get bigger and that the non-camp refugees were as vulnerable as those living in camps, we started to proportionally direct assistance to ensure an equal response.”

Border closures

Since mid-May, according to UNHCR, the main river crossing point into Iraqi Kurdistan at Peshkapor has been largely restricted.

Dindar Zebari, a senior KRG Foreign Ministry representative, denied the unofficial crossing was totally closed but admitted security had been enhanced.

“There must be clear evidence; those who are crossing the border are very much in need of protection and support,” he said.

Al-Qa’im border crossing, controlled by the central government based in Baghdad, has been closed for months.

The closures have sparked outrage from rights groups but officials at Domiz camp have quietly welcomed the time to catch up with camp extension plans that had been constantly on the back foot due to the sheer volume of daily arrivals.

The new camp, known as Dara Shakran, is about 30 minutes’ drive north of Erbil and will have an initial capacity of around 10,000, though the final details are still being worked out.

Mayor Mustafa insisted the camp will have no fences and is aimed at providing basic services, not containing the refugees. But some urban refugees may want to stay put.

Community workers have warned this may test the patience of host communities that are increasingly unhappy about the rise in begging and other harmful coping responses such as sex work.

Hassan’s sister-in-law, Sharda, a mother of five with the youngest just three months, told IRIN: “If my husband has work here in Erbil, then I won’t go to the camp.”

lr/ha/cb source

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Containing diseases in a refugee camp

Posted by African Press International on July 7, 2013

Drinking safe, walking tall

DOMIZ CAMP, – On a hot June afternoon, 27-year-old Gharib Mohammed stands outside his tent at this camp for Syrian refugees in Iraq, shovel in hand.

Sewage and garbage have blocked the small stream that runs the length of his dusty avenue and the smell has entered his tent.

“There are some other streams but I can’t clean them all. I just clean the one in front of my home. If everybody did the same thing, the camp would be clean, but not everybody does it.”

The water running past Mohammed’s house is what is technically known as “grey” water – cooking and washing water that is not contaminated with sewage. Or at least it is not supposed to be.

Mohammed points to the septic tank behind his tent, which he says is shared by 25 families.

“In two days, it gets full [then] it overflows and mixes with the other water.”

In the three months he has been living there, government contractors have emptied the tank three times, he said. He once had to resort to paying the truck driver 5,000 Iraqi dinars (US$4.30) to empty it.

Aid agencies say overcrowded living conditions in Domiz (Duhok Province) – built for 25,000 refugees but now accommodating almost twice that number – have put refugees’ health at risk.

“Water, sanitation and hygiene facilities on the site are far from adequate, increasing the risk the camp could become fertile ground for the spread of disease,” Mahendra Sheth, regional health adviser for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which is responsible for water and sanitation activities, said at the start of summer.

In April, a number of measles cases were reported in the camp, and between mid-March and mid-May, the number of diarrhoea cases tripled, the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said.

An assessment conducted by MSF in April showed “clear inequalities” in water distributions, it said in a 15 May press release. Some areas of the camp receive only four litres per person per day, MSF said, far less than the minimum 15-20 litres per person recommended in humanitarian emergencies.

“In some instances, people simply do not have access to water or sanitation,” MSF emergency coordinator Stéphane Reynier wrote. “This is simply not acceptable.”

Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), recently accused the international community of “abandoning” the Syrian refugees in Kurdistan and asked foreign officials to bring the situation to the attention of their governments.


Aid agencies have vaccinated people and are trying to increase water and sanitation services in the camp, but the problem, explains Jaya Murthy, head of communications for UNICEF, is that the camp is overstretched.

“Services were only planned for [25,000] people, so when you [nearly] double that number, of course those services are stretching, which means less for everybody.”

Many irregular settlements and transit areas have emerged, he said, and some of the people on the fringes may not even have access to some of those regular services.

The differences between the original areas and the irregular and transit areas of the camp are stark. Approved tents in the first three phases of construction of the camp each have their own latrine and share one septic tank for every four tents.

In Phases 1-3, Swedish NGO Qandil contracts a waste removal company to empty tanks when families report them full. “The trucks stand by 24 hours a day,” says Salar Rasheed, Iraq programme coordinator, “so the truck is available even at night.”

But residents in unapproved tents and in some of the transit areas share one latrine between 29 to 189 people, according to a Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) report based on February data from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). In one case documented by NRC, residents had to keep using a communal latrine that was overflowing for lack of an alternative.

To address the overcrowding, the UN is working with the Kurdish authorities to allocate more land for new camps. KRG has approved the construction of two new refugee camps in the region – one in Erbil Province, scheduled to open this month, which will house 2,000 families; and one in Sulaymaniyah, designed to hold 1,500 families.

Although there were initial hopes to install proper sewage systems in both camps, the cost of doing so – around $5 million dollars each – was prohibitive given the region’s limited budget.

“It can be done,” says Qandil’s Rasheed, “but it costs a lot of money.”

A neglected crisis?

In June, the UN issued the largest appeal for funding in history to address humanitarian needs related to the Syrian crisis. Included is a request for $37 million for water, sanitation and hygiene services in Iraq, including ensuring safe water and sanitation throughout Domiz.

Gharib Mohammed unblocks the stream outside his tent. Open gray water channels in Domiz Camp are often contaminated with garbage and sewage

But aid workers say the international community has neglected the Syrian crisis in Iraqi Kurdistan, focusing instead on Jordan and Lebanon, where donors perceive the needs to be higher. Aid agencies in Iraq have received just 14 percent of the funding requested for their humanitarian response to Syrian refugees in 2013. As a percentage, and also by raw figures, this makes Iraq the least-funded of the four countries in the Regional Response Plan that border Syria.

“The Syrian refugees have the same right to vital assistance, wherever they flee to seek protection. However, it has – unfortunately due to various political and economic reasons – been very difficult to attract funding to the projects in Iraq, and the refugees are the ones paying the price,” said Toril Brekke, acting secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, which just published a report on how the international community is “failing” Syrian refugees in the Kurdish region of Iraq.

Rising disease risk

In the meantime, government authorities and aid agencies are trying to prevent a disaster with the little funds they do have. With temperatures rising (in July, they often surpass 40 degrees), the risk of water-borne diseases is increasing.

“Over several weeks [the number of reported cases of diarrhoea] went down but it can come up at any time so ensuring access to sanitation and safe water is absolutely critical,” said UNICEF’s Murthy. “So as new people keep coming and settling in these irregular areas, we have to be really on top of it to ensure that [the water supply] is properly maintained and those services are delivered to everybody. Otherwise contagious diseases like diarrhoea and other water-borne diseases can catch very quickly.”

The Duhok Province authorities provide a water network to the original settlements and, for the time being, water trucks take care of the rest of the camp.

Thanks to a grant of $4.5 million from the Japanese government, UNICEF is currently planning to lay a pipe network in one of the newest areas of the camp, Phase 7.

UNICEF and NRC are about to start a water monitoring project, checking that the levels of chlorine are adequate.

As well as putting together a cholera prevention plan, UNICEF and MSF have started to send health and hygiene promoters around the camp, tent to tent, to teach families how to minimize the risk of disease and infection. It is particularly important to help residents used to living in modern urban environments to adjust to their new conditions, Murthy said.

“Hygiene promotion is one area that we really need to critically scale up. It’s really, really our priority area.” There are 64 hygiene promoters working in Domiz, “but we need to double or triple that.”

hg/ha/cb source


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Iraq: Across the board, women are suffering more now than they used to do

Posted by African Press International on May 13, 2013

DUBAI,  – In the 1980s, the UN says, Iraqi women enjoyed more basic rights than other women in the region. But years of dictatorship, sanctions and conflict, including the US-led invasion one decade ago, led to deterioration in women’s status.

“Across the board, women are suffering more [than they used to],” said Sudipto Mukerjee, deputy head of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Iraq.

Despite steps taken towards gender equality since 1990, Iraqi women today do not have equal educational or employment opportunities, and too many are subjected to gender-based violence

Due to years of war and political instability, 10 percent of households are headed by women, most of them widowed, but many of them divorced, separated or caring for sick spouses.

“They represent one of the most vulnerable segments of the population and are generally more exposed to poverty and food insecurity as a result of lower overall income levels,” the UN said in a March 2013 fact-sheet.


According to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) conducted by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the government, the ratio of girls to boys in primary school rose from 0.88 in 2006 to 0.94 in 2011; in secondary school, the ratio rose from 0.75 in 2006 to 0.85 in 2011. According to IRIN calculations, the enrolment of girls is growing at a faster rate than that of boys.

However, had Iraq progressed at the same rate as other countries in the region, according to UNICEF, it would have already reached 100 percent enrolment for both boys and girls in primary schools – achieving the third Millennium Development Goal of eliminating gender disparity in education.

According to Iraq Knowledge Network (IKN) survey of 2011, 28.2 percent of women 12 years or older are illiterate, more than double the male rate of 13 percent. Young women – those aged 15 to 24 – living in rural areas are even less educated; one-third of them are illiterate.


Similar inequality can be seen in the labour force.

According to the IKN survey, only 14 percent of women are working or actively seeking work, compared to 73 percent of men. Those who are employed are mostly working in the agricultural sector, and women with a diploma have a harder time finding jobs: 68 percent of women with a bachelor’s degree are unemployed.

The representation of women in parliament increased from 13 percent in 1990 to 27 percent in 2006, meeting the one-quarter female representation quota imposed in 2005, but this is still far below the national target of half.

Physical safety

Women’s health concerns have seen some gains. The percentage of births attended by skilled personnel has risen significantly in the last decade. And the maternal mortality rate – which at 84 per 100,000 births in 2006 was the highest in the region – appears to have dropped significantly, to 24 per 100,000 in 2011, according to the World Health Organization.

Still, domestic violence, honour killings, female genital mutilation (FGM) and human trafficking remain threats to many Iraqi women and girls. In the northern autonomous Kurdistan region, 42.8 percent of women have experienced FGM, according to the 2011 MICS.

In 2011, nearly half of girls aged 10 to 14 were exposed to violence at least once by a family member, and nearly half of married women were exposed to at least one form of spousal violence, mostly emotional, but also physical and sexual, according to a survey by the government and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

ha/rz  source


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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).


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.


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.


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


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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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The humanitarian legacy – Iraq

Posted by African Press International on April 23, 2013

BAGHDAD/DUBAI,  – Ten years after US forces took over Iraq, opinions on the progress made are as polarized as ever.

On one side, the Iraqi and American governments argue, the gains have been significant.

“Despite all the problems of the past decade, the overwhelming majority of Iraqis agree that we are better off today than under Saddam’s brutal dictatorship,” Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki wrote in a 9 April opinion piece in the Washington Post, marking 10 years after the fall of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

Paul Wolfowitz, who served as the US Deputy Secretary of Defence between 2001 and 2005, wrote the same day in Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that given the hardships under Hussein, “it is remarkable that Iraq has done as well as it has thus far.”

Others are more circumspect in evaluating these gains, looking to the 1980s – under Hussein’s rule – as a time when Iraqi society was much further ahead.

“By all measures and standards, there has been a deterioration in the quality of life of Iraqis as compared to 25 years ago,” said Khalid Khalid, who tracks Iraq’s progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at the UN Development Programme (UNDP). “The invasion comes on top of sanctions that came before it and the Iran-Iraq war. It’s one continuous chain of events that led to the situation Iraqis are facing now.”

Mixed blessings

In the early 1980s, Iraq was regarded by many as the most developed state in the Arab world. The Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, the Gulf War of 1991 and subsequent years of sanctions took a heavy toll on developmental indicators, yet Iraq continued to have strong state institutions, even if they were used repressively to maintain Hussein’s power. For example, even after 10 years of an international embargo, the system of food ration distribution operated effectively.

The US invasion and subsequent civil conflict changed this, said Maria Fantappie, Iraq analyst at the International Crisis Group, as violence and de-Baathification drove away the human resources needed to run effective institutions. In many ways, the country has yet to recover.

“In 2003, that heritage of an efficient Iraqi state was completely lost,” Fantappie said. “We have the consequences of this until today… We are not yet at the level of state institutions that can deliver services equally to all citizens.”

Iraq is the only country in the Middle East where living standards have not improved compared to 25 years ago, the World Bank says. In areas such as secondary school enrolment and child immunization, Iraq now ranks lower than some of the poorest countries in the world.

“The war is just such a series of mixed blessings,” said Ned Parker, a former fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and long-time Iraq correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. “For every positive development, there’s a negative development that counters it.”

Looking at the data

IRIN has taken a look development and humanitarian indicators for Iraq, which show a decade of fits and starts, with progress in one area met by stagnation in another.

Of course, statistics in Iraq are often “wrong, simply not available or politically misused,” as one researcher put it. While a wealth of information and data exists, it comes from a multitude of sources using different methodologies, and much of it is based on relatively small sample sizes. The UN’s Information and Analysis Unit said in a 2008 report: “As is typical in volatile working environments, data reliability in some instances is questionable, contradictory figures exist, and geographic coverage of the indicators is often compromised for either security or political reasons.”

There are also huge discrepancies when national statistics are broken down by region, with the capital Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdish region in the north often the only governorates ranking above national average in measures of development. As Médecins sans Frontières wrote in a recent article in the Lancet journal, “Much more attention needs to be given to remote areas, where the reality for Iraqis has not substantially improved over the past 10 years.”

What is more, much of the progress is seen in indicators tracking inputs, like how many children enrol in school, rather than outcomes, such as how much they actually learn, said Sudipto Mukerjee, deputy head of UNDP in Iraq.

But even with these caveats, the best available data offer a complex portrait of a country that has seen improvement over the last decade, but is still largely struggling. For example, a recent overview of Iraq’s headway towards the Millennium Development Goals found great strides in the eradication of poverty over 1990 levels, but slower progress on primary education enrolment, which still lags behind 1990 levels.

A million Iraqis remain refugees, and over a million are internally displaced; sectarianism holds sway over political institutions; and healthcare is undermined by a lack of medical personnel, unreliable utilities and fragile national security. Women and girls, who once enjoyed more rights than other women in the region, now regularly find themselves excluded from school and work opportunities, though great progress has been made towards gender equality in recent years. While living conditions, clean water access, poverty rates and education levels are all disappointing compared to historical highs in the 1980s, they are greatly improved from the years Iraq spent under sanctions. And increased decentralization of power has offered some hope for the future.

No easy narrative can be accurately applied to the country’s experiences over the past 10 years, and in many ways, the direction the country has taken may only become clear over the decade to come.

Every day this week, we will bring you our findings on each of the following indicators. Check back regularly!

Water and Sanitation
Poverty/Economic Growth
Food Security/Malnutrition
Governance/Human Security
Aid work

In the process of our research, we’ve come across some interesting bits and pieces. For more, check out:

A recent Op-Ed by Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, where he makes the case that Iraq has progressed

The case for why the US intervention was necessary and successful – by Paul Wolfowitz

An entire issue of the Middle East Research and Information Project dedicated to the 10-year mark of Hussein’s toppling

The Guardian newspaper also has a special section on its website dedicated to articles on Iraq 10 years on from the invasion

A pioneering project to track the costs of American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: Costs of War

The National Democratic Institute has done a series of public opinion polls in Iraq since 2010. Here is the latest.

The UN’s Joint Analysis and Policy Unit for Iraq is a wealth of detailed, statistical information, including the Iraq Knowledge Network survey the UN helped conduct in 2011.

Over the years, a number of other household surveys have been conducted by the government in collaboration with various UN agencies, including the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), supported by UNICEF; the Iraq Household Socio-Economic Survey (IHSES), supported by the World Bank; the Iraq Living Conditions Survey, supported by UNDP; and the Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis, supported by WFP.

The government Central Statistics Organization has assembled statistics on human development indicators from various sources, from 1990 onwards, which you can find here.

The World Bank also allows you to download full sets of comparative statistics and the World Health Organization keeps year-by-year statistics since 1999 on each of the health-related Millennium Development Goals.

If you want to crunch numbers, check out the UN Human Development Reports over the years.

The UN recently took stock of Iraq’s progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, with less than 1,000 days to go before the deadline.

IRIN has coverage many of these issues over the years. Our Iraq archives are here.

An interesting debate in Foreign Affairs magazine about whether Iraq is on track.

The US auditor on Iraq reconstruction’s latest and final report that says $60 billion invested in Iraq’s reconstruction had “limited positive effects”

And on that theme, check out this cynical, almost satirical, book (and subsequent blog) by Peter Van Buren: We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People.


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US: Scandal at the CIA – Director quits due to extramarital affair

Posted by African Press International on November 12, 2012

CIA Director David Petraeus stepped down Friday over an extramarital affair. This has killed  a brilliant career. He has served as military commander in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The revelation of his sexual behaviour shocked  Washington coming three days after the re-election of US President Barack Obama.

Petraeus was scheduled to testify on the CIA’s alleged failure to protect of a US consulate in Libya.

He has been married 37 years.


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