Starved by war | india | Hindustan Times
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Starved by war

As politicians and generals on both sides of the war on Iraq plot, a terrible humanitarian crisis unfolding in the region seems to have gone largely unnoticed.

india Updated: Apr 04, 2003 13:34 IST
PTI

As politicians and generals on both sides of the war on Iraq plot, a terrible humanitarian crisis unfolding in the region seems to have gone largely unnoticed.

Even before this war began, the 10-year war with Iran had enervated the Iraqi economy. The subsequent dozen years of post-Gulf War I economic sanctions proved lethal, leaving over 60 per cent of the 27-million strong Iraqi populace dependent on government rations. With not much more than highfalutin political propaganda to feed on, a quarter of children under five were malnourished and a quarter of the Iraqi population had no access to clean drinking water. Conditions can only worsen now if this war drags on, since international aid agencies will not be too keen on deploying their staff inside Iraq.

The UN’s World Food Programme says that an estimated $ 1.5 billion will be needed to feed the country’s population in the next six months alone. This indicates that the majority of Iraqis would probably run out of their existing food supplies by May. That is, if there are many left to run out of food. For, apart from the bombing taking its toll (smart bombs aren’t really all that smart to distinguish between toddler and soldier), thousands of refugees may flee their cities to the borders.

In fact, the UN fears an exodus of over 600,000 people from the country, half of whom would be heading for Iran with the other half going to Turkey, Syria or Jordan. This would be a logistical nightmare for both aid agencies as well as whoever is in charge of Baghdad at the time. So whenever, and however, the military operations end, one thing is certain: all those glowing communiques will be appended by tales of woe and human misery — acknowledgement that the war was nothing but a tragedy, and not just an awesome military operation.