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Press release -- 7 January 2003
For Immediate Release
From the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq (CASI)
CONFIDENTIAL UN DOCUMENT PREDICTS HUMANITARIAN EMERGENCY IN EVENT OF WAR
A "strictly confidential" UN document, written to assist with UN
contingency planning in the event of war with Iraq, predicts high civilian
injuries, an extension of the existing nutritional crisis, and "the
outbreak of diseases in epidemic if not pandemic proportions." The
existence of the draft document, entitled "Likely Humanitarian Scenarios"
and dated 10th December 2002, was first reported in the Times (London) on
23rd December 2002, but this is the first time it has been made publicly
accessible. It is available at
The document focuses on the likely humanitarian consequences of a range of
anticipated military scenarios. It estimates that:
- "as many as 500,000 people could require treatment to a greater or
lesser degree as a result of direct or indirect injuries", based upon
World Health Organisation estimates of 100,000 direct and 400,000 indirect
casualties [para 23]. It indicates existing shortages of some medical
items, "rendering the existing stocks inadequate" for war-increased demand
[para 22], and exacerbated by the "likely absence of a functioning primary
health care system in a post-conflict situation" [para 24].
- damage to the electricity network will reduce "water and sanitation as
well as health [sectors]" [para 5]. In the short term "39% of the
population will need to be provided with potable water" [para 28]. The
high number of indirect casualties may be because "the outbreak of
diseases in epidemic if not pandemic proportions is very likely" [para
- "It is estimated that the nutritional status of some 3.03m people
countrywide will be dire and that they will require therapeutic feeding
[according to UNICEF estimates]. This consists of 2.03m severely and
moderately malnourished children under 5 and one million pregnant women"
- "It is estimated that there will eventually be some 900,000 Iraqi
refugees requiring assistance, of which 100,000 will be in need of
immediate assistance, [according to UNHCR]" [para 35]. An estimated 2
million people will require some assistance with shelter [para 33]. For
130,000 existing refugees in Iraq "it is probable that UNHCR will
initially be unable to provide the support required" [para 36]
The document also rejects comparisons with humanitarian outcomes of both
the 2001 Afghanistan and 1991 Gulf conflicts, since the existing
sanctions-induced humanitarian situation in Iraq has produced a population
in which 16 million (60%) "have no other means with which to provide for
other essential requirements" other than monthly government food rations
Notes for editors:
1) The document is available at
http://www.casi.org.uk/info/undocs/war021210.pdf, the website of the
Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq (CASI), a Cambridge-based NGO which
exists to raise awareness of the effects of sanctions on Iraq, and
campaigns on humanitarian grounds for the lifting of non-military
sanctions. CASI does not support or have ties to the government of Iraq.
The document has been obtained by Nathaniel Hurd, Consultant on UN Iraq
policy for the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) UN Office. He has also
prepared accompanying notes in a personal capacity, at
2) Please note this UN document is a draft. Estimates and other content
may have since been revised. Additionally, several paragraphs and tables
have been deleted at the request of the individual who released the
document, including the entirety of page 3.
3) CASI's website can be found at www.casi.org.uk, and it can be contacted
by email on email@example.com.
Iraq War Could Put 10 Million In Need of Aid, U.N. Reports
By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 7, 2003; Page A12
UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 6 -- The United Nations estimates that a U.S.-led military
campaign to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could place about 10
million Iraqi civilians, including more than 2 million refugees and homeless, at
risk of hunger and disease and in need of immediate assistance, according to a
U.N. planning document.
U.N. officials warned that the impact of a U.S. air and ground invasion in Iraq
would likely be worse than the humanitarian crisis caused by the Persian Gulf
War in 1991 because a decade of U.N. sanctions has made the Iraqi population
almost totally dependent on government handouts for survival.
Such a conflict, the U.N. planners predicted in the document, would halt the
country's oil production, severely degrade its electrical power network and
disrupt the Iraqi government's capacity to continue distributing food rations
through a U.N.-supervised humanitarian program. It would also likely lead to the
outbreak of diseases, including cholera and dysentery, in "epidemic if not
pandemic proportions," the confidential report said.
The 13-page contingency plan, prepared by a senior U.N. task force last month to
coordinate U.N. humanitarian agencies' response to a possible conflict,
represents the most alarming official U.N. assessment of the humanitarian
fallout of a U.S.-led war in Iraq. It also underscores U.N. fears that it may be
impossible to adequately deliver relief to Iraqi civilians in the initial weeks
after the outbreak of war as U.S. forces destroy or blockade key roads, rails,
bridges and ports.
"The bulk of the population is now totally dependent on the government of Iraq
for a majority, if not all, of their basic needs," the document said. "Unlike
the situation in 1991, they have no way of coping if they cannot access them:
the sanctions regime, if anything, has served to increase dependence on the
government as almost the sole provider."
The document was obtained by the U.N. office of the Mennonite religious group,
which opposes a war against Iraq, and posted on the Web site of the Cambridge
University student advocacy group, Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
The United Nations' preparations have been cloaked in secrecy because senior
U.N. officials feared it might appear that the world body was backing the Bush
administration's efforts to topple Hussein. U.N. officials have only recently
begun to acknowledge their plans, noting their concern that they may be called
upon to conduct a major humanitarian operation and subsequently help administer
a future Iraqi government. "We have had a lot of experiences in the past where
we were accused of not being ready," a U.N. official said. "If something does
happen, nobody can say they weren't given a lot of notice. "
The U.N. Children's Fund, the World Food Program and the U.N. High Commissioner
for Refugees are stockpiling food, blankets, tents and other equipment in
warehouses in Iran and other countries along Iraq's border for more than half a
million people. The United Nations also issued an appeal last month in Geneva to
the United States and other international donors for $37 million to finance
their initial preparedness plans. However, implementation of the plan could cost
billions, according to U.N. officials.
The U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations is planning to create an
Afghanistan-style U.N. political office that could help distribute humanitarian
relief aid and administer a new Iraqi government.
U.N. officials said they hope the resumption of U.N. inspections in Iraq can
avert a war and that their own efforts do not reflect support for U.S. aims to
oust the Iraqi leadership. The U.N. document cites the need for developing a
"plan B" that would outline the U.N.'s future role in Iraq in the event that
"conflict is avoided and sanctions are, at the least, suspended."
"The United Nations often engages in contingency planning in countries in which
we work. In the case of Iraq we are of course preparing for all eventualities,"
said David Wimhurst, the U.N. spokesman for peacekeeping. "However, it is
standard practice that we do not discuss such planning nor disclose details
Under the terms of a 1996 agreement, Iraq is permitted to export its oil and use
the majority of proceeds to pay for food, medicine and other humanitarian goods.
The program is expected to be suspended in the event of a military conflict.
The United Nations expects the most serious fighting to occur in central Iraq,
particularly in Baghdad, causing shortages of clean water and sanitation and
driving civilians into southern Iraq and across the border into Iran. But it
also warns that the food distribution network that feeds more than 24 million
Iraqis could be disrupted, requiring the establishment of alternative supply
U.N. organizations are expecting to concentrate their aid efforts in the south,
where it anticipates about 5.4 million people will be in need of immediate
relief. But they will have to find new supply routes to feed more than 3.7
million people in three Kurdish-administered provinces in northern Iraq.
They will also have to contend with more than 900,000 refugees expected to flee
to Iran and an additional 50,000 that will go to Saudi Arabia. About 130,000
refugees living in U.N.-supervised refugee camps in Iraq are also expected to
join the flood of internally displaced Iraqis requiring aid.
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