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UNICEF racing to bolster the strength of 400,000 malnourished children in Iraq

Posted on: March 13, 2003 11:57 AM
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[UNICEF] With the threat of war looming over Iraq, UNICEF is providing special therapeutic food for over 400,000 malnourished children across the country in an urgent effort to bolster their chances of survival in the event of a conflict.

Working closely with the Ministry of Health, UNICEF has trucked more than 1,000 metric tonnes of high-protein biscuits into Iraq in recent days. The biscuits, which the government is now delivering to health centres across the country, are part of an ongoing UNICEF campaign to reach Iraqi children with life-protecting nutrients and vaccines ahead of a possible conflict.

"We are still hoping for a peaceful resolution to this crisis," said UNICEF executive Director, Carol Bellamy. "But it's a fact that the children of Iraq are extremely vulnerable. Their health, their nutrition, their access to safe water - all of which are weak already - will be further jeopardized in a war. By acting to reach them now, we hope to save lives in the weeks and months ahead."

UNICEF has also delivered 155 metric tonnes of therapeutic milk to feed children suffering from severe malnutrition - a major cause underlying death among children under five. A total of 10,000 severely malnourished children will benefit immediately from the therapeutic milk, which is now arriving in each of the 63 nutrition rehabilitation centres run by the Iraq Ministry of Health.

The UNICEF deliveries constitute the first shipments of high protein biscuits and therapeutic milk into the country in two years. The supplies are sufficient to last for a month. UNICEF has also shipped nutritional supplies to its warehouses in the countries surrounding Iraq to enable a rapid response should a surge in malnutrition occur.

Iraq has one of the highest rates of under-five mortality in the world, with more than one in eight children dying before they reach their fifth birthday. Although it has improved in recent years, malnutrition also remains high, affecting one in four Iraqi children under the age of five - almost 1 million youngsters in total.

Half of Iraq's 24.5 million people are children.