Iraq: children suffer as food insecurity persists, UNICEF reports

12 May 2006 –

Despite the laudable efforts of Iraq’s public distribution of food, many of Iraq’s poorer households still lack enough to eat, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said today, citing a new food security and vulnerability analysis.

The survey was considered very comprehensive, covering 98 districts and 22,050 rural and urban households, and employed seven leading indicators: stunting, underweight, wasting, per cent of population who were extremely poor and other factors.

“The chronic malnutrition rate of children in food insecure households was as high as 33 per cent, or one out of every three children malnourished,” said Roger Wright, UNICEF’s Special Representative for Iraq.

Chronic malnutrition affects the youngest and most vulnerable children, aged 12 months to 23 months, most severely. “This can irreversibly hamper the young child’s optimal mental and cognitive development, not just their physical development,” said Mr. Wright. Acute malnutrition was also of concern, with 9 per cent of Iraqi children being acutely malnourished.

The study, based on the most recent data from 2005, was successfully conducted by the Ministry of Planning and Development Cooperation and Central Organization for Statistics & Information Technology and the Ministry of Health/Nutrition Research Institute, supported by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF.

Continuing food insecurity in Iraq cannot be attributed to any one factor, but stems from several causes, including the lingering effects of war and sanctions, plus the ongoing conflict and insecurity, UNICEF said.

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