Background Brief - Nutrition
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
The alarming deterioration of child nutrition in Iraq between 1991 and 1996
was contained by initiatives undertaken through the Oil-for-Food Programme. Although malnutrition levels remained unacceptably high, UNICEF
found that the Oil-for-Food Programme, coupled with a targeted nutrition
programme, reduced the prevalence of underweight children from 23.4 per cent in 1996 to 19.6 per cent; chronic malnutrition from 32 per cent in 1996 to 30 per cent in 2000; and acute malnutrition from 11 per cent in 1996 to 7.8 per cent in 2000. Advocacy efforts
also resulted in the Ministry of Trade and Industry agreeing to fortify wheat flour with iron, and locally produced salt with potassium iodate, to counter micronutrient deficiencies.
In the 15 central and southern governorates, the rate of malnutrition among children under five in 2002 was half that of 1996.
In the three northern governorates, acute malnutrition among children under five
was en reduced by 20 per cent; chronic malnutrition by 56 per cent; and the incidence of underweight children by 44 per cent. This success
was largely due to a targeted nutrition programme. The nutrition programme, which started in 1998,
provided supplementary rations to an average of 75,000 people in the three northern governorates, including malnourished children and their families, pregnant women and nursing mothers. It
also supplied high-energy biscuits to 350,000 primary school children in rural areas to supplement their micronutrient needs.
The Trajectory of Malnutrition in Iraq Under Sanctions