September 26, 2008
London – Children in Zimbabwe are eating rats and inedible roots riddled with toxic parasites to stave off hunger because of chronic food shortages, an aid agency said on Thursday.
Save the Children said the most vulnerable faced starvation unless they get food aid in the next couple of weeks.
“The rising malnutrition and the rise in diseases are going to mean that children will die and we have to act very fast,” said Sarah Jacobs, a spokesperson for the relief group.
The United Nations had said previously that more than five million people in Zimbabwe would need food aid by early next year after a poor harvest compounded by economic turmoil.
Jacobs said many people in the Zambezi Valley, the poorest and driest area, were now surviving on a vile-tasting, fibrous root called makuri.
“It’s got no nutritional value whatsoever. It tastes disgusting and it also has a parasite which attaches to it which is toxic,” said Jacobs, who has just returned from the region.
“This is all they have to eat. You see babies eating it and toddlers eating it, and it’s not digestible. It creates terrible stomach pains.”
People were eating anything to survive, she said. She had come across one child who had died after eating a poisonous root and young children eating tiny rats they caught in their huts.
Save the Children and other agencies are resuming work after Zimbabwe’s government lifted a ban on their operations at the end of August.
President Robert Mugabe imposed the ban before a run-off presidential election in June, accusing the agencies of supporting the opposition. But Save the Children said in reality many agencies had not been able to work in the field since the first election round in March.
The agency, which has launched a £5m appeal for emergency operations in Zimbabwe, said the situation had got much worse in the past few months and that rampant inflation meant even people with jobs would need food aid.
“People’s ways of coping have been completely exhausted. People are saying they’re scared they’re going to die within weeks if food doesn’t come,” Jacobs said.
“We really are playing catch up. It’s a huge humanitarian job now and there has to be much more money than there has ever been before.”
Jacobs said many children had diarrhoea after eating makuri, which was particularly dangerous in a situation where there was no proper clean water or sanitation.
The lack of nutrition had also weakened people’s immune systems and left them vulnerable to illness just before the rainy season when cases of malaria and cholera increase.
There have already been suspected cases of cholera even though the disease does not usually appear until the rains arrive in October.
Save the Children said proper nutrition was particularly vital for those with HIV/Aids, which effects one in five adults in Zimbabwe.
The food crisis has also caused many children to drop out of school either because they could not afford to go, needed to work or look for food, or because their teachers could not afford the journey to work.
Mugabe wants sanctions lifted
September 28, 2008
New York – Zimbabwe’s president said on Wednesday he sees no obstacles to carrying out a power-sharing agreement with rivals and hopes it will lead the West to ease sanctions, which he blamed for devastating the country’s economy.
In an interview with The Associated Press, the 84-year-old Robert Mugabe was sharp, quick and animated – and made clear he is determined to remain president despite what he said were efforts by Britain and the US to oust him.
“They are waiting for a day when this man, this evil man, called Robert Mugabe is no longer in control,” he said. “And I don’t know when that day is coming.”
Mugabe, who is to address the UN General Assembly on Thursday, dismissed Western reports that the September 15 power-sharing deal could fall apart “because I don’t know of any hitch”.
Under the agreement, Mugabe remains president, but is supposed to cede some of the powers he has wielded for nearly three decades in the southern African country.
Mugabe said on Wednesday the only outstanding issue is deciding on four of the 31 Cabinet posts, and the negotiations are continuing in Harare while he is in New York. He declined to say which posts are still being discussed.
The agreement provides for 15 nominated by Mugabe’s party, 13 by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and three by the leader of a smaller opposition faction, Arthur Mutambara.
But Mugabe made clear on Wednesday that he was willing to share power with Tsvangirai, who would become prime minister under the agreement, leading a council of ministers responsible for government policies and reporting to a Cabinet headed by Mugabe.
Truth and reconciliation
Tsvangirai has repeatedly said he does not want a legal witch hunt in Zimbabwe, but that he believes some kind of truth and reconciliation process is necessary to allow healing after years of violence and repression. Mugabe disagreed.
“At the moment, the fight between us has been one between Britain and ourselves – Britain, of course, using as their front the opposition,” Mugabe said. “So the British and the Americans, they’ve got to be reconciled to us.”
Western nations, who have shunned Mugabe’s government and whose aid and investment are sorely needed, have reacted cautiously to the coalition agreement. Millions of dollars in aid are expected to flow in if Mugabe actually shares power.
Mugabe said on Wednesday the West should now begin removing “demonic” sanctions, which have targeted individuals and companies seen to be supporting his regime.
“We don’t expect investment from countries that are hostile,” Mugabe said. “They can keep their investment, but we would hope in the first place that sanctions would be lifted. There is no reason for imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe at all. There has never been any reason for it, you see, except hostility.”
EU foreign ministers have welcomed the power-sharing deal but have said that Mugabe must prove he is willing to restore democratic rule before EU sanctions can be lifted.
Mugabe said on Wednesday that Zimbabwe can return to its former economic status, saying “if only the West can leave us alone, you will certainly see us come up.”
“It will take us time because we have lost some time because of sanctions,” he said.
Mugabe accuses West of genocide
September 26, 2008
New York – Zimbabwe’s president lashed out at Western powers in a speech to the UN General Assembly on Thursday, accusing them of genocide and calling for the removal of US sanctions.
Robert Mugabe also slammed Western-led efforts earlier this year at the UN to step up punitive measures against his regime, and he praised Russia and China for blocking them.
“By the way, those who falsely accuse us of these violations are themselves international perpetrators of genocide, acts of aggression and mass destruction,” Mugabe said in his speech.
“The masses of innocent men, women and children who have perished in their thousands in Iraq surely demand retribution and vengeance. Who shall heed their cry?” Mugabe asked.
The United States only sent a low-ranking diplomat to take notes at Mugabe’s speech.
Mugabe praised Russia and China, saying the two ensured Zimbabwe “did not fall prey to a cocktail of lies which had been designed by our detractors to call for UN sanctions”.
Not able to agree
He did not specifically mention Zimbabwe’s disputed election earlier this year, but he thanked South Africa’s former President Thabo Mbeki for his mediation efforts that led to a power-sharing deal.
Mugabe lauded Mbeki, “whose patience, fortitude, sensitivity, diplomatic skills and painstaking work made it possible for the Zimbabwean parties to overcome what had appeared to be insurmountable and intractable difficulties to reaching agreement”.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai won the most votes in March presidential polling, but not enough to avoid a run-off against Mugabe. An onslaught of violence against Tsvangirai’s supporters led him to drop out of the presidential run-off and Mugabe was declared the overwhelming winner of the second vote, which was widely denounced as a sham.
Under the power-sharing deal signed September 15 with his rivals, Mugabe is supposed to cede some of the powers he has wielded for nearly three decades.
However, Mugabe’s party and his political rivals have not been able to agree on who will get four of the Cabinet posts.
Western sanctions have targeted individuals and companies seen to be supporting Mugabe’s regime and were tightened after elections this spring.
“Once again, I appeal to the world’s collective conscience to apply pressure for the immediate removal of these sanctions by Britain, the United States and their allies, which have brought untold suffering to our people,” Mugabe told world leaders.
Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, blames the sanctions for the collapse of Zimbabwe’s economy. But critics point to his 2000 order that commercial farms be seized from whites.
‘Masters of their own destiny’
On Thursday, Mugabe praised his land reform programme, saying “the majority of our rural people have been empowered to contribute to household and national food security and, indeed, to be masters of their own destiny”.
“However, the effects of climate change that have included recurrent droughts and floods in the past seven years, and the illegal, unilaterally-imposed sanctions on my country have hindered Zimbabwe’s efforts to increase food production.”
Mugabe claimed his land reform was to benefit poor blacks, but many of the farms ended up in the hands of Mugabe loyalists and the once-thriving economy’s agricultural base collapsed.
Now for a little history about what Sanctions do.
Sanctions against Iraq cause death of 6,000 persons per month
Iraq, Politics, 1/27/1999
A former U.N humanitarian official in Iraq, Irish Dennis Halliday, said sanctions against this country cause up to 6,000 deaths per month.
In an interview with British Daily “The Guardian” that was reproduced by French News agency “AFP,” halliday said that after 8 years, the sanctions should be considered as a kind of war as they cause the death of 5,000 to 6,000 persons per month. “We must find another solution,” he pleaded.
The former Irish diplomat, 67, resigned last September from his post of coordinator of the oil-for-food program to protest the maintaining of sanctions against Iraq. Dennis Halliday, who occupied several U.N posts for 30 years, remained in Baghdad only for 13 months.
Halliday accused last week during a visit to France the U.N of practicing “genocide against the Iraqi people.” He voiced appreciation for the latest French proposal to come out of the crisis saying the proposal to lift the embargo on Iraq’s oil exports while maintaining monitoring on armaments was “viable.”
He told “The Guardian” that the US and Great Britain were sharing responsibility in the death of thousands of Iraqis, victim of the misery created by the sanctions.
He said he was convinced that the sanctions as a pressure means do not work and that sanctions always affect the population.
Halliday is the recipient of the 1999 North-South cooperation prize set up in 1991 by Moroccan intellectual Mehdi El Mandjra.
Halliday also rejected the accusations of London and Washington claiming that Baghdad hampers the distribution of foodstuffs to the needy populations. The U.N, he said, monitors every rice bag. We know where it goes.
He added that the oil-for-food program is actually a failure. Any program that generates malnutrition for 30 % of the population and that entails the death of thousands of persons can only be a failure, he said.
Iraqi minister of trade, Mohamed Mehdi Saleh, said last Sunday that the losses incurred by Iraq because of the embargo imposed on the country in 1991 amount to nearly $ 140 billion.
The oil-for-food program enables Iraq to sell $ 5.2 billion worth of crude oil every six months to purchase basic products. Iraq does not reach this ceiling because of the collapse of oil prices and of delays in receiving the spare parts, required to rehabilitate oil infrastructures.
Half a million children have died in Iraq since UN sanctions were imposed – most enthusiastically by Britain and the US. Three UN officials have resigned in despair. Meanwhile, bombing of Iraq continues almost daily. John Pilger investigates
March 04 2000
Wherever you go in Iraq’s southern city of Basra, there is dust. It gets in your eyes and nose and throat. It swirls in school playgrounds and consumes children kicking a plastic ball. “It carries death,” said Dr Jawad Al-Ali, a cancer specialist and member of Britain’s Royal College of Physicians. “Our own studies indicate that more than 40 per cent of the population in this area will get cancer: in five years’ time to begin with, then long afterwards. Most of my own family now have cancer, and we have no history of the disease. It has spread to the medical staff of this hospital. We don’t know the precise source of the contamination, because we are not allowed to get the equipment to conduct a proper scientific survey, or even to test the excess level of radiation in our bodies. We suspect depleted uranium, which was used by the Americans and British in the Gulf War right across the southern battlefields.” Under economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council almost 10 years ago, Iraq is denied equipment and expertise to clean up its contaminated battle-fields, as Kuwait was cleaned up. At the same time, the Sanctions Committee in New York, dominated by the Americans and British, has blocked or delayed a range of vital equipment, chemotherapy drugs and even pain-killers. “For us doctors,” said Dr Al-Ali, “it is like torture. We see children die from the kind of cancers from which, given the right treatment, there is a good recovery rate.” Three children died while I was there.
Six other children died not far away on January 25, last year. An American missile hit Al Jumohria, a street in a poor residential area. Sixty-three people were injured, a number of them badly burned. “Collateral damage,” said the Department of Defence in Washington. Britain and the United States are still bombing Iraq almost every day: it is the longest Anglo-American bombing campaign since the second world war, yet, with honourable exceptions, very little appears about it in the British media. Conducted under the cover of “no fly zones”, which have no basis in international law, the aircraft, according to Tony Blair, are “performing vital humanitarian tasks”. The ministry of defence in London has a line about “taking robust action to protect pilots” from Iraqi attacks – yet an internal UN Security Sector report says that, in one five-month period, 41 per cent of the victims were civilians in civilian targets: villages, fishing jetties, farmland and vast, treeless valleys where sheep graze. A shepherd, his father, his four children and his sheep were killed by a British or American aircraft, which made two passes at them. I stood in the cemetery where the children are buried and their mother shouted, “I want to speak to the pilot who did this.”
This is a war against the children of Iraq on two fronts: bombing, which in the last year cost the British taxpayer £60 million. And the most ruthless embargo in modern history. According to Unicef, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the death rate of children under five is more than 4,000 a month – that is 4,000 more than would have died before sanctions. That is half a million children dead in eight years. If this statistic is difficult to grasp, consider, on the day you read this, up to 200 Iraqi children may die needlessly. “Even if not all the suffering in Iraq can be imputed to external factors,” says Unicef, “the Iraqi people would not be undergoing such deprivation in the absence of the prolonged measures imposed by the Security Council and the effects of war.”
Through the glass doors of the Unicef offices in Baghdad, you can read the following mission statement: “Above all, survival, hope, development, respect, dignity, equality and justice for women and children.” A black sense of irony will be useful if you are a young Iraqi. As it is, the children hawking in the street outside, with their pencil limbs and eyes too big for their long thin faces, cannot read English, and perhaps cannot read at all.
“The change in 10 years is unparalleled, in my experience,” Anupama Rao Singh, Unicef’s senior representative in Iraq, told me. “In 1989, the literacy rate was 95%; and 93% of the population had free access to modern health facilities. Parents were fined for failing to send their children to school. The phenomenon of street children or children begging was unheard of. Iraq had reached a stage where the basic indicators we use to measure the overall well-being of human beings, including children, were some of the best in the world. Now it is among the bottom 20%. In 10 years, child mortality has gone from one of the lowest in the world, to the highest.”
Anupama Rao Singh, originally a teacher in India, has spent most of her working life with Unicef. Helping children is her vocation, but now, in charge of a humanitarian programme that can never succeed, she says, “I am grieving.” She took me to a typical primary school in Saddam City, where Baghdad’s poorest live. We approached along a flooded street: the city’s drainage and water distribution system have collapsed. The head, Ali Hassoon, wore the melancholia that marks Iraqi teachers and doctors and other carers: those who know they can do little “until you, in the outside world, decide”. Guiding us around the puddles of raw sewage in the playground, he pointed to the high water mark on a wall. “In the winter it comes up to here. That’s when we evacuate. We stay as long as possible, but without desks, the children have to sit on bricks. I am worried about the buildings coming down.”
The school is on the edge of a vast industrial cemetery. The pumps in the sewage treatment plants and the reservoirs of water are silent, save for a few wheezing at a fraction of their capacity. Many were targets in the American-led blitz in January 1991; most have since disintegrated without spare parts from their British, French and German builders. These are mostly delayed by the Security Council’s Sanctions Committee; the term used is “placed on hold”. Ten years ago, 92% of the population had safe water, according to Unicef. Today, drawn untreated from the Tigris, it is lethal. Touching two brothers on the head, the head said, “These children are recovering from dysentery, but it will attack them again, and again, until they are too weak.” Chlorine, that universal guardian of safe water, has been blocked by the Sanctions Committee. In 1990, an Iraqi infant with dysentery stood a one in 600 chance of dying. This is now one in 50.
Just before Christmas, the department of trade and industry in London blocked a shipment of vaccines meant to protect Iraqi children against diphtheria and yellow fever. Dr Kim Howells told parliament why. His title of under secretary of state for competition and consumer affairs, eminently suited his Orwellian reply. The children’s vaccines were banned, he said, “because they are capable of being used in weapons of mass destruction”. That his finger was on the trigger of a proven weapon of mass destruction – sanctions – seemed not to occur to him. A courtly, eloquent Irishman, Denis Halliday resigned as co-ordinator of humanitarian relief to Iraq in 1998, after 34 years with the UN; he was then Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, one of the elite of senior officials. He had made his career in development, “attempting to help people, not harm them”. His was the first public expression of an unprecedented rebellion within the UN bureaucracy. “I am resigning,” he wrote, “because the policy of economic sanctions is totally bankrupt. We are in the process of destroying an entire society. It is as simple and terrifying as that . . . Five thousand children are dying every month . . . I don’t want to administer a programme that results in figures like these.”
When I first met Halliday, I was struck by the care with which he chose uncompromising words. “I had been instructed,” he said, “to implement a policy that satisfies the definition of genocide: a deliberate policy that has effectively killed well over a million individuals, children and adults. We all know that the regime, Saddam Hussein, is not paying the price for economic sanctions; on the contrary, he has been strengthened by them. It is the little people who are losing their children or their parents for lack of untreated water. What is clear is that the Security Council is now out of control, for its actions here undermine its own Charter, and the Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention. History will slaughter those responsible.”
Inside the UN, Halliday broke a long collective silence. Then on February 13 this year, Hans von Sponeck, who had succeeded him as humanitarian co-ordinator in Iraq, resigned. “How long,” he asked, “should the civilian population of Iraq be exposed to such punishment for something they have never done?” Two days later, Jutta Burghardt, head of the World Food Programme in Iraq, resigned, saying privately she, too, could not tolerate what was being done to the Iraqi people. Another resignation is expected.
When I met von Sponeck in Baghdad last October, the anger building behind his measured, self-effacing exterior was evident. Like Halliday before him, his job was to administer the Oil for Food Programme, which since 1996 has allowed Iraq to sell a fraction of its oil for money that goes straight to the Security Council. Almost a third pays the UN’s “expenses”, reparations to Kuwait and compensation claims. Iraq then tenders on the international market for food and medical supplies and other humanitarian supplies. Every contract must be approved by the Sanctions Committee in New York. “What it comes down to,” he said, “is that we can spend only $180 per person over six months. It is a pitiful picture. Whatever the arguments about Iraq, they should not be conducted on the backs of the civilian population.”
Denis Halliday and I travelled to Iraq together. It was his first trip back. Washington and London make much of the influence of Iraqi propaganda when their own, unchallenged, is by far the most potent. With this in mind, I wanted an independent assessment from some of the 550 UN people, who are Iraq’s lifeline. Among them, Halliday and von Sponeck are heroes. I have reported the UN at work in many countries; I have never known such dissent and anger, directed at the manipulation of the Security Council, and the corruption of what some of them still refer to as the UN “ideal”.
Our journey from Amman in Jordan took 16 anxious hours on the road. This is the only authorised way in and out of Iraq: a ribbon of wrecked cars and burnt-out oil tankers. Baghdad was just visible beneath a white pall of pollution, largely the consequence of the US Air Force strategy of targeting the industrial infrastructure in January 1991. Young arms reached up to the window of our van: a boy offering an over-ripe banana, a girl a single stem flower. Before 1990, such a scene was rare and frowned upon.
Baghdad is an urban version of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. The birds have gone as avenues of palms have died, and this was the land of dates. The splashes of colour, on fruit stalls, are surreal. A bunch of Dole bananas and a bag of apples from Beirut cost a teacher’s salary for a month; only foreigners and the rich eat fruit. A currency that once was worth two dollars to the dinar is now worthless. The rich, the black marketeers, the regime’s cronies and favourites, are not visible, except for an occasional tinted-glass late-model Mercedes navigating its way through the rustbuckets. Having been ordered to keep their heads down, they keep to their network of clubs and restaurants and well-stocked clinics, which make nonsense of the propaganda that the sanctions are hurting them, not ordinary Iraqis.
In the centre of Baghdad is a monument to the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, which Saddam Hussein started, with encouragement from the Americans, who wanted him to destroy their great foe, the Ayatollah Khomeini. When it was over, at least a million lives had been lost in the cause of nothing, fuelled by the arms industries of Britain and the rest of Europe, the Soviet Union and the United States: the principal members of the Security Council. The monument’s two huge forearms, modelled on Saddam’s arms (and cast in Basingstoke), hold triumphant crossed sabres. Cars are allowed to drive over the helmets of dead Iranian soldiers embedded in the concourse. I cannot think of a sight anywhere in the world that better expresses the crime of sacrificial war.
We stayed at the Hotel Palestine, once claiming five stars. The smell of petrol was constant. As disinfectant is often “on hold”, petrol, more plentiful than water, has replaced it. There is an Iraqi Airways office, which is open every day, with an employee sitting behind a desk, smiling and saying good morning to passing guests. She has no clients, because there is no Iraqi Airways – it died with sanctions. The pilots drive taxis and sweep the forecourt and sell used clothes. In my room, the water ran gravy brown. The one frayed towel was borne by the maid like an heirloom. When I asked for coffee to be brought up, the waiter hovered outside until I was finished; cups are at a premium. His young face was streaked with sadness. “I am always sad,” he agreed matter-of-factly. In a month, he will have earned enough to buy tablets for his brother’s epilepsy.
The same sadness is on the faces of people in the evening auctions, where intimate possessions are sold for food and medicines. Television sets are the most common items; a woman with two toddlers watched their pushchairs go for pennies. A man who had collected doves since he was 15 came with his last bird; the cage would go next. Although we had come to pry, my film crew and I were made welcome. Only once, was I the brunt of the hurt that is almost tangible in a society more westernised than any other Arab country. “Why are you killing the children?” shouted a man from behind his bookstall. “Why are you bombing us? What have we done to you?” Passers-by moved quickly to calm him; one man placed an affectionate arm on his shoulder, another, a teacher, materialised at my side. “We do not connect the people of Britain with the actions of the government,” he said. Laith Kubba, a leading member of the exiled Iraqi opposition, later told me in Washington, “The Iraqi people and Saddam Hussein are not the same, which is why those of us who have dedicated our lives to fighting him, regard the sanctions as immoral.”
In an Edwardian colonnade of Doric and Corinthian columns, people come to sell their books, not as in a flea market, but out of desperate need. Art books, leather bound in Baghdad in the 30s, obstetrics and radiology texts, copies of British Medical Journals, first and second editions of Waiting For Godot, The Sun Also Rises and, no less, British Housing Policy 1958 were on sale for the price of a few cigarettes. A man in a clipped grey moustache, an Iraqi Bertie Wooster, said, “I need to go south to see my sister, who is ill. Please be kind and give me 25 dinars.” (About a penny). He took it, nodded and walked smartly away.
Mohamed Ghani’s studio is dominated by a huge crucifix he is sculpting for the Church of Assumption in Baghdad. As Iraq’s most famous sculptor, he is proud that the Vatican has commissioned him, a Muslim, to sculpt the Stations of the Cross in Rome – a romantic metaphor of his country as Mesopotamia, the “cradle of Western civilisation”. His latest work is a 20-foot figure of a woman, her child gripping her legs, pleading for food. “Every morning, I see her,” he said, “waiting, with others just like her, in a long line at the hospital at the end of my road. They are what we have been forced to become.” He has produced a line of figurines that depict their waiting; all the heads are bowed before a door that is permanently closed. “The door is the dispensary,” he said, “but it is also the world, kept shut by those who run the world.” The next day, I saw a similar line of women and children, and fathers and children, in the cancer ward at the Al Mansour children’s hospital. It is not unlike St Thomas’s in London. Drugs arrived, they said, but intermittently, so that children with leukaemia, who can be saved with a full course of three anti-biotics, pass a point beyond which they cannot be saved, because one is missing. Children with meningitis can also survive with the precise dosage of antibiotics; here they die. “Four milligrams save a life,” said Dr Mohamed Mahmud, “but so often we are allowed no more than one milligram.” This is a teaching hospital, yet children die because there are no blood-collecting bags and no machines that separate blood platelets: basic equipment in any British hospital. Replacements and spare parts have been “on hold” in New York, together with incubators, X-ray machines, and heart and lung machines.
I sat in a clinic as doctors received parents and their children, some of them dying. After every other examination, Dr Lekaa Fasseh Ozeer, the oncologist, wrote in English: “No drugs available.” I asked her to jot down in my notebook a list of the drugs the hospital had ordered, but rarely saw. In London, I showed this to Professor Karol Sikora who, as chief of the cancer programme of the World Health Organisation (WHO), wrote in the British Medical Journal last year: “Requested radiotherapy equipment, chemotherapy drugs and analgesics are consistently blocked by United States and British advisers [to the Sanctions Committee in New York]. There seems to be a rather ludicrous notion that such agents could be converted into chemical or other weapons.”
He told me, “Nearly all these drugs are available in every British hospital. They’re very standard. When I came back from Iraq last year, with a group of experts I drew up a list of 17 drugs that are deemed essential for cancer treatment. We informed the UN that there was no possibility of converting these drugs into chemical warfare agents. We heard nothing more. The saddest thing I saw in Iraq was children dying because there was no chemotherapy and no pain control. It seemed crazy they couldn’t have morphine, because for everybody with cancer pain, it is the best drug. When I was there, they had a little bottle of aspirin pills to go round 200 patients in pain. They would receive a particular anti-cancer drug, but then get only little bits of drugs here and there, and so you can’t have any planning. It is bizarre.”
In January, last year, George Robertson, then defence secretary, said, “Saddam Hussein has in warehouses $275 million worth of medicines and medical supplies which he refuses to distribute.” The British government knew this was false, because UN humanitarian officials had made clear the problem of drugs and equipment coming sporadically into Iraq – such as machines without a crucial part, IV fluids and syringes arriving separately – as well as the difficulties of transport and the need for a substantial buffer stock. “The goods that come into this country are distributed to where they belong,” said Hans von Sponeck. “Our most recent stock analysis shows that 88.8% of all humanitarian supplies have been distributed.” The representatives of Unicef, the World Food Programme and the Food and Agricultural Organisation confirmed this. If Saddam Hussein believed he could draw an advantage from obstructing humanitarian aid, he would no doubt do so. However, according to a FAO study: “The government of Iraq introduced a public food rationing system with effect from within a month of the imposition of the embargo. It provides basic foods at 1990 prices, which means they are now virtually free. This has a life-saving nutritional benefit . . . and has prevented catastrophe for the Iraqi people.”
The rebellion in the UN reaches up to Kofi Annan, once thought to be the most compliant of secretary-generals. Appointed after Madeleine Albright, then the US representative at the UN, had waged a campaign to get rid of his predecessor, Boutros-Boutros Ghali, he pointedly renewed Hans von Sponeck’s contract in the face of a similar campaign by the Americans. He shocked them last October when he accused the US of “using its muscle on the Sanctions Committee to put indefinite ‘holds’ on more than $700 million worth of humanitarian goods that Iraq would like to buy.” When I met Kofi Annan, I asked if sanctions had all but destroyed the credibility of the UN as a benign body. “Please don’t judge us by Iraq,” he said.
On January 7, the UN’s Office of Iraq Programme reported that shipments valued at almost a billion and a half dollars were “on hold”. They covered food, health, water and sanitation, agriculture, education. On February 7, its executive director attacked the Security Council for holding up spares for Iraq’s crumbling oil industry. “We would appeal to all members of the Security Council,” he wrote, “to reflect on the argument that unless key items of oil industry are made available within a short time, the production of oil will drop . . . This is a clear warning.” In other words, the less oil Iraq is allowed to pump, the less money will be available to buy food and medicine. According to the Iraqis at the UN, it was US representative on the Sanctions Committee who vetoed shipments the Security Council had authorised. Last year, a senior US official told the Washington Post, “The longer we can fool around in the [Security] Council and keep things static, the better.” There is a pettiness in sanctions that borders on vindictiveness. In Britain, Customs and Excise stops parcels going to relatives, containing children’s clothes and toys. Last year, the chairman of the British Library, John Ashworth, wrote to Harry Cohen MP that, “after consultation with the foreign office”, it was decided that books could no longer be sent to Iraqi students.
In Washington, I interviewed James Rubin, an under secretary of state who speaks for Madeleine Albright. When asked on US television if she thought that the death of half a million Iraqi children was a price worth paying, Albright replied: “This is a very hard choice, but we think the price is worth it.” When I questioned Rubin about this, he claimed Albright’s words were taken out of context. He then questioned the “methodology” of a report by the UN’s World Health Organisation, which had estimated half a million deaths. Advising me against being “too idealistic”, he said: “In making policy, one has to choose between two bad choices . . . and unfortunately the effect of sanctions has been more than we would have hoped.” He referred me to the “real world” where “real choices have to be made”. In mitigation, he said, “Our sense is that prior to sanctions, there was serious poverty and health problems in Iraq.” The opposite was true, as Unicef’s data on Iraq before 1990, makes clear.
The irony is that the US helped bring Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party to power in Iraq, and that the US (and Britain) in the 1980s conspired to break their own laws in order, in the words of a Congressional inquiry, to “secretly court Saddam Hussein with reckless abandon”, giving him almost everything he wanted, including the means of making biological weapons. Rubin failed to see the irony in the US supplying Saddam with seed stock for anthrax and botulism, that he could use in weapons, and claimed that the Maryland company responsible was prosecuted. It was not: the company was given Commerce Department approval.
Denial is easy, for Iraqis are a nation of unpeople in the West, their panoramic suffering of minimal media interest; and when they are news, care is always taken to minimise Western culpability. I can think of no other human rights issue about which the governments have been allowed to sustain such deception and tell so many bare-faced lies. Western governments have had a gift in the “butcher of Baghdad”, who can be safely blamed for everything. Unlike the be-headers of Saudi Arabia, the torturers of Turkey and the prince of mass murderers, Suharto, only Saddam Hussein is so loathsome that his captive population can be punished for his crimes. British obsequiousness to Washington’s designs over Iraq has a certain craven quality, as the Blair government pursues what Simon Jenkins calls a “low-cost, low-risk machismo, doing something relatively easy, but obscenely cruel”. The statements of Tony Blair and Robin Cook and assorted sidekick ministers would, in other circumstances, be laughable. Cook: “We must nail the absurd claim that sanctions are responsible for the suffering of the Iraqi people”, Cook: “We must uphold the sanctity of international law and the United Nations . . .” ad nauseam. The British boast about their “initiative” in promoting the latest Security Council resolution, which merely offers the prospect of more Kafkaesque semantics and prevarication in the guise of a “solution” and changes nothing.
What are sanctions for? Eradicating Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, says the Security Council resolution. Scott Ritter, a chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq for five years, told me: “By 1998, the chemical weapons infrastructure had been completely dismantled or destroyed by UNSCOM (the UN inspections body) or by Iraq in compliance with our mandate. The biological weapons programme was gone, all the major facilities eliminated. The nuclear weapons programme was completely eliminated. The long range ballistic missile programme was completely eliminated. If I had to quantify Iraq’s threat, I would say [it is] zero.” Ritter resigned in protest at US interference; he and his American colleagues were expelled when American spy equipment was found by the Iraqis. To counter the risk of Iraq reconstituting its arsenal, he says the weapons inspectors should go back to Iraq after the immediate lifting of all non-military sanctions; the inspectors of the international Atomic Energy Agency are already back. At the very least, the two issues of sanctions and weapons inspection should be entirely separate. Madeleine Albright has said: “We do not agree that if Iraq complies with its obligations concerning weapons of mass destruction, sanctions should be lifted.” If this means that Saddam Hussein is the target, then the embargo will go on indefinitely, holding Iraqis hostage to their tyrant’s compliance with his own demise. Or is there another agenda? In January 1991, the Americans had an opportunity to press on to Baghdad and remove Saddam, but pointedly stopped short. A few weeks later, they not only failed to support the Kurdish and Shi’a uprising, which President Bush had called for, but even prevented the rebelling troops in the south from reaching captured arms depots and allowed Saddam Hussein’s helicopters to slaughter them while US aircraft circled overhead. At they same time, Washington refused to support Iraqi opposition groups and Kurdish claims for independence.
“Containing” Iraq with sanctions destroys Iraq’s capacity to threaten US control of the Middle East’s oil while allowing Saddam to maintain internal order. As long as he stays within present limits, he is allowed to rule over a crippled nation. “What the West would ideally like,” says Said Aburish, the author, “is another Saddam Hussein.” Sanctions also justify the huge US military presence in the Gulf, as Nato expands east, viewing a vast new oil protectorate stretching from Turkey to the Caucasus. Bombing and sanctions are ideal for policing this new order: a strategy the president of the American Physicians for Human Rights calls “Bomb Now, Die Later”. The perpetrators ought not be allowed to get away with this in our name: for the sake of the children of Iraq, and all the Iraqs to come
UN sanctions cause death of patients: Afghanistan
ISLAMABAD (NNI): The United Nations economic and aviation sanctions on the war-shattered Afghanistan have resulted in the death of patients, President Afghan Preventive Medicine Dept. Ministry of Public Health Maulavi Abdul Hakim Hakimi has said. He however did not mention as to how many people have died.
“The sanctions have caused spread of epidemics in Afghanistan. Diseases like malaria, T.B. and laxmania have multiplied owing to lack of medicine,” Maulvi Hakimi said.
The United Nations Security Council slapped sanctions on Afghanistan last year after Taliban refused to turn over Osama bin Laden for trial in American embassiesí bombing in Africa, which had killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.
Since the slapping of sanctions on Ariana flights by UN, the Ministry of Public Health of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is unable to send patients with critical conditions abroad. As a result, many have died. Similarly, various life-saving drugs can not be imported due to the embargo on Ariana flights.
Ariana was being used for medicine and medical supplies and equipment imports. According to the staff of Indra Ghandi Hospital in Kabul, 50% of medicines and medical equipment in Kabulís hospitals were being shipped by Ariana.
The main supplier of eye-care in Afghanistan the International Assistance Missionís Noor Eye Hospital previously source all its imported eye medicines in India and imported them via Ariana. They have been unable to do this since the imposition of the sanctions. Other health eugenics previously imported drugs through Dubai via Ariana. The ban on Ariana has also disrupted the activities of the Afghan Postal Services, which had been gradually restored and extended over the post three years.
It is noteworthy that an elaborate smuggling network has emerged as a result of the sanctions and has resulted in 100% increase in the prices of some essential commodities, he said. The impact of the sanctions on the Afghan people is undoubtedly clear.
“The Washington/Moscow collaboration to impose more sanctions on the Islamic Emirate is in no way justified because the Islamic Emirate has shown its readiness to solve all outstanding issues through talks,” Afghan ambassador Mulla Abdul Salam Zaeef has said. About Osama, he said the government of the Islamic Emirate has recently proposed a fourth option to resolve Osama issue.
“However, the UN on the behest of Washington and Moscow resort to starvation tactics in order to obtain political goals. This is a new trend in politics that the common man has to face suffering, starvation, destitute and penury because a certain government is not palatable to a certain super power and organization,” Mulla Zaeef said.
“This will only prolong the suffering of the people of Afghanistan without achieving her politically motivated goals,” he said.
An oil embargo and other sanctions intended to help restore democracy to Haiti are killing as many as 1,000 children each month, according to a study to be released this week by international public health experts at Harvard University.
The study, titled “Sanctions in Haiti: Crisis in Humanitarian Action,” reports that although international attention has focused largely on killings and political terrorism in Haiti since the September 1991 coup that deposed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, “the human toll from the silent tragedy of humanitarian neglect has been far greater than either the violence or human rights abuses.”
Normally, nearly 3,000 children aged 5 or younger die in Haiti every month. According to the study, that figure has increased by about a 1,000 each month. There are about a million children under the age of 5 in Haiti, which has a population of about 7 million. More Malnutrition Seen
The study also found that the embargo had contributed to as many as 100,000 new cases of moderate to severe malnutrition.
The Harvard report, like the assessments of relief organizations here, found that the international embargoes that have been imposed, relaxed, then reimposed since the military coup have ravaged this country, the hemisphere’s poorest.
Although all of the embargoes against Haiti since the coup have made exceptions for relief supplies, the Harvard study found that from food production to the availability of drugs and vaccines, the impact of sanctions has been severe. Food ‘Practically Impeded’
“Food and medicines are exempted from embargoes, so everyone assumes that everything will be all right,” said Lincoln C. Chen, director of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies. “But what we have found is that even when they are not legally impeded, these kinds of things are practically impeded.”
[ A State Department spokesman, David Johnson, declined to comment on the Harvard report, saying he had not seen it. But he said the Administration was well aware that the sanctions have had a painful effect on the people of Haiti. “Sanctions are by their very nature a blunt instrument, but they remain the best tool we have at our disposal to bring about the return of democracy in Haiti,” he said. ]
President Clinton, in an interview on Sunday, cited the potential for increased suffering as the reason for his reluctance to back Father Aristide’s call for a near-total embargo. “We can in effect have a total embargo and try to shut the country down,” he said. “That will be more painful in the near term to the average Haitians who are already suffering.”
Instead, the Administration is trying to persuade other nations to follow its lead in freezing the overseas assets of leaders and supporters of the government.
In the three weeks that Haiti has been cut off from foreign oil deliveries, this country’s economy has come to a near halt. In the capital, Port-au-Prince, litter-strewn streets are empty of most traffic by early afternoon. Unemployment is soaring, and the prices of ordinary goods are climbing beyond the reach of many.
The report says that Haiti’s gross domestic product decreased by 5.2 percent in 1991 and 10 percent in 1992 and that exports in 1992 were about half of what they were the previous year and less than a third of what they were in the early 1980’s.
In provincial towns and rural areas, the situation is far worse. According to radio reports here, Port de Paix, a small city in Haiti’s grindingly poor northwest, has gone without electricity for three weeks. Transportation to many rural areas has been almost completely cut off.
In the small town of Ganthier, an hour east of the capital along the highway to the Dominican Republic, Haiti’s suffering is evident everywhere.
At the town’s small medical clinic, the only health care center within miles, a white ambulance sits idle for lack of gasoline. The clinic’s pharmacy is almost bare.
“We don’t have any money for medicine, and life has become very hard,” said Solieus Fenelon, three of whose six children are seriously ill with diseases including malaria and typhoid.
“The little money I had has dried up,” said Mrs. Fenelon, who made her living as a shoe peddler in the capital until public transportation became unavailable for lack of gas. “It’s hard for me to watch my children like this and not be able to do anything for them. They are in the hands of God now.”
Public health experts say broadening the current embargo, which President Clinton says he is loath to do, would threaten even more Haitians with severe malnutrition and disease. Effect on Aristide’s Future
On the other hand, easing up on sanctions, which now cover oil and arms, would send a signal to Haiti’s de facto military rulers that after two years of diplomacy on Father Aristide’s behalf, the United Nations and Washington are backing away from the goal of restoring him to power.
The current oil embargo is much like another round of sanctions imposed on Haiti in June that quickly brought the military to the negotiating table. This time, however, the army, which has refused to comply with the terms of the United Nations-brokered settlement of Haiti’s political crisis, seems to have prepared for sanctions. It has stockpiled more fuel and rushed the completion of a new road to the Dominican Republic, a source of limited amounts of imported fuel.
Because of transportation problems, hoarding and profiteering, the prices of many basic medicines, when they are available at all, have gone up as much as fivefold. Immunization programs have been paralyzed in many areas because of a lack of supplies, the failure of refrigeration and large-scale movements of people as they flee violence or joblessness.
Haiti’s children have been particularly hard hit by a measles epidemic that has swept the country in the last two years. The Harvard study found that vaccination programs in Port-au-Prince and in some rural areas have reached as little as 4 percent of their target populations because of factors related to the embargo. Relief Corridor Urged
Mr. Chen said the United States and other donors should set up what he called a “humanitarian corridor” into Haiti, to insure delivery of vital supplies stem the growing death toll.
“Our message is that it is fine to intervene for democracy, but at the same time you must accept some of these responsibilities,” he said.
The study’s findings on child mortality were based in large part on projections made from what researchers said was the only high quality, long-term tracking of births and deaths in rural Haiti. The Harvard researchers leaned heavily on that study, conducted by the Save the Children project in the town of Maissade in Haiti’s Central Plateau region. Mr. Chen said the study of the individual community was representative enough to serve as a base for a national projection.
The Save the Children study monitors the fortunes of the town’s population of 44,900. Malnutrition data was collected from the Agency for International Development and the Centers for Disease Control, as well as from studies by organizations like CARE. 7 Visit From Harvard
Six members of the Harvard team visited Haiti this summer shortly after the first of two oil embargoes imposed on the country. Mr. Chen said another member repeatedly visited the country since then to update the researchers’ information.
With some of the hemisphere’s worst public health indicators, Haiti’s child mortality rate of 133 deaths per 1,000 live births was already far higher than that of most of its neighbors even before the current political crisis. In the neighboring Dominican Republic, for instance, that figure stood at 54 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1992.
Jorimene Simeon of Ganthier, who is 36, said she has had tuberculosis for two and a half years, but has been forced to interrupt her treatment for lack of medicine.
“I could have been cured,” Miss Simeon said bitterly. “They prescribed me the medicine, but the papers have just stayed in my hand. I can’t afford to buy it.”
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
UN Document Series Symbol: ST/HR/
UN Issuing Body: Secretariat Centre for Human Rights
© United Nations
Adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 217 A(III) of 10 Dec.1948.
Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in cooperation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,
The General Assembly,
Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
1. Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
2. No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.
2. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
1. Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
2. This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
1. Everyone has the right to a nationality.
2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
1. Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
2. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
3. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
1. Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
2. No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
1. Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
2. Everyone has the right to equal access to public service in his country.
3. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.
1. Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
2. Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
3. Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
4. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
2. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
1. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
2. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
3. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
1. Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.
1. Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
2. In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
3. These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.
It seems the United Nations have been breaking a few of their own laws, as have many countries who are members.
But hell what do I know? I am just a citizen who took the time to read the stupid stuff they wrote. Just a pity they really don’t do what they say in their laws.
The planet is suffering from a Human Rights Embargo. Seems we have no rights at all. I call them as I see them.