The Grim Recent History of Iraq

Facts and Shivers

Water:Before the war, most of Iraq's urban pumping stations were putting out drinkable water. After the war, the system crashed, with broken pipes causing leaks that resulted in losing half the water they transported. The equipment had been stolen. But again after Oil for Food,the water system improved with new equipment and all new pipes being laid in Baghdad.

Food and Nutrition: Relative affluence allowed many Iraqis to eat well from the 1960s through the 1980s. In 1991, war led to an immediate drop in food supplies. About one-third of the country's children under the age of five were malnourished by the mid 1990s. However, food production soon increased, leading to a surplus that lowered prices by as much as 40 percent. Chicken had come to provide a key source of protein; chicken production began to rise, leading to a decline in prices.

Public Health: The activities of the public health system—such as prescriptions, surgeries, lab tests, and hospital visits—were cut in half by the war.

Before 1990 there had been 148 ambulances in the country. In 1996 there were but four in Baghdad. The number of diarrhea episodes in children below five quadrupled from 1991 to 1996. Garfield reports that "informal estimates suggest that 70 percent of child deaths in the mid-1990s were due to preventable diarrheal or respiratory diseases."

Education: Before the first Gulf War, virtually all children went to grammar school. But after the war, attendance fell, teaching quality declined, and the number of pupils graduating from grammar school dropped. As a consequence, the literacy rate declined.


"It's going to be a tough couple of years," said Colin Rowat. "I don't think there's going to be a real Marshall Plan, because Iraq is seen as a rich country, relative to countries in Africa." With their economies weak, neither the U.S. nor Britain will be inclined to do much of anything, and in the U.S. emphasis will shift from Iraq to the domestic economy and the presidential election.


Additional reporting: Phoebe St John and Joanna Khenkine

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