World - AP
Chronic Poverty in S. Iraq May Worsen
Thu Jun 19, 9:38 PM ET
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Nearly one in every five Iraqis living in the southern half of the country suffers from chronic poverty, the World Food Program said Thursday, warning that the situation could worsen in the aftermath of the war.
A survey by the U.N. agency two months before the fall of Baghdad to U.S.-led forces revealed that 4.6 million of the 22.3 million Iraqis living in the 15 southern and central provinces had an "alarming dependency on the monthly food rations," said Torben Due, the WFP representative in Iraq.
The three Iraqi Kurdish provinces that have been out of the central government's control since the end of the 1991 Gulf war were excluded from the survey.
"About 13 years of stringent economic sanctions, three wars in two decades and failing economic policies have impoverished a majority of the Iraqi people and reduced them to relying heavily on free food handouts," the agency statement said.
More than half of Iraqis were totally dependent for their survival on food rations distributed under the oil-for-food program, the agency said. Despite years of food aid, 20 percent of those surveyed cannot meet their basic needs of food, water, clothing, health or education, it said.
"This is a major cause for concern because all those people were found to be chronically poor even while their basic food needs were met every month free of charge," the agency said.
The instability that followed the ouster of Saddam Hussein in April likely would worsen the economic situation, it said.
Weeks of fighting, looting and lawlessness have left much of Iraq's infrastructure destroyed, many people unemployed and food warehouses empty.
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