Victims of war - Iraq

News and Press Release
Originally published
Prior to the Gulf War in 1991, Iraq enjoyed a high standard of living, with the majority of the population in a relatively wealthy "middle class." With low infant mortality and high levels of education and access to potable water and sanitation, Iraq was listed as 67th on the UNDP Human Development Index in 1990. But Iraq's prosperity and standard of living were highly dependent on the benefits of oil revenues. When these revenues were curtailed, Iraq rapidly plunged into a situation of scarce food, water, healthcare and education; a collapsing or destroyed infrastructure and economy and, consequently, a deepening humanitarian crisis. By 1999, Iraq had fallen to 125 on the UNDP Human Development Index.
Electricity, essential for many services and previously enjoyed by the remotest villages in Iraq, is now generally available for less then 12 hours per day in many parts of Iraq. This affects water quantity and quality, sewage treatment, health facilities, education and overall quality of life for the majority of the population.

Due to the collapse of sewage treatment, water sources receive 500,000 tons of raw sewage each day. The river in Baghdad, which is the only source of water for the area, receives nearly 300,000 tons.

The U.N. Security Council's "Oil-for-Food" program allowed Iraq to export $2 billion worth of oil every 180 days. Two-thirds of those funds are used to procure essential humanitarian supplies. The government food ration under the "Oil-for-Food" program only lasts most families between 21 and 25 days. For 40 percent of the population, this food ration is the primary source of family income. There is little or no cash in the economy and many families barter parts of their ration to obtain other essential items.

Since the Gulf War, most Iraqi families have sold any assets they once had. In many instances, home appliances, furnishings, heirlooms, rugs and other household items have been sold for cash to pay for unexpected health or other urgent family needs. Today, few families in Iraq retain any assets other than their family home.

CARE's Response

CARE International established operations in Iraq following the Gulf War in 1991, beginning with the distribution of 12,000 tons of food to more than 500,000 Kurds recently returned from the mountains along the Turkish border.

Since then, CARE is the only international non-governmental organization (INGO) to have maintained a continuous presence and program in the center and southern region of Iraq. From 1991 to 1995, CARE also was the major implementing partner to the U.N. Inter-Agency Humanitarian Program in northern Iraq. CARE provided monthly food storage and logistics to between 300,000 and 500,000 people per month; provided up to 10 million litres of winter heating fuel to 550,000 families; and provided logistical support and other assistance to other U.N. Agencies. Since 1991, CARE's programs have provided humanitarian relief assistance to more than 7 million people -- approximately one-third of the population of Iraq.

From 1991 to 1995, CARE's programs were located in the northern Kurdish regions of Dahuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah, and in Iraq's central and southern regions. Programs included school and infant feeding projects and school repairs projects in Anbar, Babel, Diyala and Najaf. In 1995 CARE also began pediatric hospital feeding in 97 hospitals in all 14 governorates of central and southern Iraq.

As the humanitarian crisis worsened in central and southern Iraq, CARE focused humanitarian activities exclusively in those regions through projects in health, water and sanitation, and working with children.

CARE has developed an integrated approach for water and health rehabilitation projects. Underpinning each project is an improvement in the quantity and quality of potable water supplied to the population, which directly impacts overall health. Hospital patients, for example, benefit from the improved water and better hygiene.

Working with the Ministry of Health, CARE Iraq provides supplementary food and lactose-free milk to 97 pediatric hospitals. CARE has also been working in a capacity-building role, providing training courses, educational materials and equipment for teachers. Rehabilitation work has also been carried out on two orphanages and two schools for the handicapped.

CARE's programs in Iraq are managed by CARE Australia.