A decade of sanctions: a decade of crimes against children

Ellaheh Saba
 

The world has stood horrified. Everyday 200 children die in Iraq. According to the UN children agency, UNICEF, half a million Iraqi children have died in the decade since sanctions were imposed. Children are dying from diseases such as leukaemia because hospitals are unable to provide adequate treatment. The cited number of deaths is merely one official indicator of the price that innocent people have paid in the past decade.

The statistics hardly bring home the true picture, as the actual cost to human lives is much wider spread. Since the imposition of the sanctions, a dramatic poverty has engulfed low-income families and child labour has become an issue in Iraq. The sharp rise in the number of street children, the extensive employment of children, and a noticeable rise in juvenile crimes are all the blind spots in this reflection of life under sanctions in Iraq.

The extent of human suffering can no longer be covered up by the United States and Britain who have been heading the genocide of a generation in Iraq. The whole show of the "new world order" is no longer the headlines of the media that so blatantly dressed up the killings that took place in the Gulf war. A decade of sanctions has gone by and Madeleine Albright is confronted with the question: "is such suffering worth it?" Her reply came just as lifeless as the interests of capital: "We think the price is worth it." At the same time, Tony Blair claims that British pilots "policing" the no-fly zones perform vital humanitarian tasks!

The Labour and the Democrat faces of capital have been insisting that the embargo was imposed after the Gulf War to punish "Iraq" for invading Kuwait and force it to dismantle "its" weapons of mass destruction.

Even this farce of a claim does not hold water any more. In February this year a third senior UN worker in Iraq resigned in protest against the failure of the organisation's relief programmes. The head of the World Food Programme, a UN humanitarian agency chief in Iraq, Jutta Burghardt, has given notice that she is leaving her post, just days after the resignation of the UN's top humanitarian official in Iraq, Hans Von Sponeck.

Mr von Sponeck, who resigned after 32 years of working for UN said that he is resigning because he believes sanctions are inhumane and ineffective and it was no longer acceptable to keep his mouth shut. ."For how long should the civilian population, which is totally innocent on all this, be exposed to such punishment for something they have never done?" His predecessor, the Irish diplomat Denis Halliday, stepped down in July 1998 having attacked the sanctions policy.

The US State Department has attacked Mr von Sponeck for commenting that the UN's oil-for-food programme was not meeting the minimum requirements of the Iraqi people and that "you have frozen their capacities. You haven't allowed them to develop. So, for them, it's too late." A spokesman James Rubin said "I think an article in the Iraqi press praising his approach to his work is ample evidence of his unsuitability for this post, and his job is to work on behalf of Iraqi people and not the regime. We look forward to an able manager who will maximise the benefits of the oil-for-food programme."!!

The revenue that is available now, $2.9bn for six months for a population of 23 million translates into $252 per person per six months. The UN sanctions committee is holding up 20% of the goods ordered on the grounds that it might be used for making weapons of mass destruction

I dread when I wonder how a parent explains the current nightmare to their malnourished toddler in Iraq "my dear