UN logo  Office of the Iraq Programme

Français    arabic

box Home Page

About the Programme

Information for Companies and Delegations

Weekly Update

UN News Centre


Oil-for-Food Programme
Background Brief - Health

The Oil-for-Food Programme was established in April 1995 as a temporary measure to ease the unintended consequences of United Nations sanctions on Iraq's civilian population. The first Iraqi oil sold under the programme to pay for humanitarian supplies, was exported in December 1996 and the first shipments of food arrived in March 1997. As of 20 March 2003, the Oil-for-Food Programme covered 24 sectors of need and had prevented the further degradation of public services and infrastructure, making a significant difference in the humanitarian situation nationwide.

Health care delivery services in Iraq improved significantly as a result of Oil-for-Food funding for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases between December 1996 and 20 March 2003. The country remained polio free for the previous 36 months following National Immunization Days that provided door-to-door vaccinations and reached 95 per cent of the 3.6 million targetted children under five years of age.

In the central and southern governorates, major medical surgeries increased by 40 per cent and laboratory investigations by 25 per cent between 1997 and early 2003. There was a reduction in the transmission of communicable diseases, such as cholera, malaria, measles, mumps, meningitis and tuberculosis. The Oil-for-Food Programme also helped to improve health care delivery in several new or rehabilitated centres in the centre/south, including: the Saddam Centre for Neurological Sciences; the AIDS Research and Study Centre; the Acupuncture Therapy Centre; the Tuberculosis Control Institute and; the National Centre for Haematology Research.

In the three northern governorates, cholera was eradicated and the incidence of malaria was reduced to 1991 levels. The incidence of measles declined to levels ranging from 4 - 8 per cent and like the rest of the country, the north remained polio free for almost three years.

Between 2000 and 2001, deliveries of medicines and medical supplies to the northern governorates doubled. Among the supplies delivered were high-demand items including antibiotics, intravenous solutions and oral suspensions. As a result, the rationing of medicines such as antibiotics was substantially reduced.

Iraq has been polio-free since 2000


 Transport and
 Food Handling
 Water and Sanitation
 IDPs and Settlement
 Mine Action
 Click for photo gallery