«This is happening in a society which lived with pride all throughout its history»

«This is happening in a society which lived with pride all throughout its history»
2002. Baghdad. Illustration: Álvaro Moreno © Álvaro Moreno

«This is happening in a society which lived with pride all throughout its history»

Under the name «UN System in Iraq», 25 UN Agencies, Foundations and specialised Programmes carried out evaluations of the humanitarian situation during the period of sanctions, from 1990 to 2003. While the Security Council (SC) unjustly prolonged the sanctions following political objectives set by the USA, the UN agencies became the hardest critic of the international organisation to which they belonged: 

«The life of people has been rapidly affected. No electricity, no fuel for cooking, the stored food was spoiled, water contaminated and resulting in explosion of diarrheal diseases and increased number of deaths among young children. Within a very short time the quality of life changed from that of an emerging modern country to the one of poor country affected by disaster. Food prices rose sharply, far beyond the capacity of ordinary people. […]

Though the military threat was part of the scene from time to time, the almost nine years standing sanctions led the vast majority of people to a state of poverty. Most people sold whatever they could sell to survive. Social values have been severely affected with dramatic behavioural changes. […] The daily struggle to meet the minimum basic needs and the rise of criminality led to a feeling of insecurity but indifference as regards military threats as people prepared for the worst.

The indifference and behavioural changes are striking. Children and particularly boys are very much valued in a traditional society and families accept sacrifice for their education. Families and people now accept seeing them beggars on the streets after they drop out of school or do not even enrol in school judging from the age of many of them.

Many of these children work to add to their family income but many of them are abused by criminals. Work opportunities are rare and people, including skilled professionals are ready to do anything to make their living. This is happening in a society which lived with pride throughout its history.

The other stressful aspects of life are the chronic and acute shortages of general as well as special or lifesaving drugs. The service delivery conditions have deteriorated and after the first two years of sanctions the quality was so poor (lack of drugs, breakdown of equipment, absence of budget for hospital running costs, erosion of general living conditions of staff etc..) that people would not come to health institutions unless they had no other alternative.

Military threats, poverty and poor environmental conditions, poor water quality, spread of malnutrition and disease, lack of quality and essential care, disruption of family values, diminished opportunity for work, high inflation, postponement of marriage for economic reasons, all such factors added to each other affecting the mental health of people and led to an increase in mental and psychological disorder.» (Special Topics on Social Conditions in Iraq, 1990)