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Monday, May 12, 2003
Mass starvation in Iraq?
"Iraqi agriculture is on the brink of collapse, with fears that many of its 24.5 million people will go hungry this summer, according to a confidential report being studied by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation," write Helena Smith and Ed Vulliamy in yesterday's edition of The Observer.
The report says the problems facing Iraqi farmers range from the destruction of irrigation networks to a lack of seed to plant to a lack of parts for the machines necessary for producing food, and looting has contributed to the situation, according to Smith and Vulliamy. Unfortunately the reporters do not address how bad the FAO thinks the situation could get and under what scenarios.
Smith and Vulliamy do say that the FAO is planning to publicly comment on these findings "by Wednesday." On April 28 the FAO said at least a third of Iraq's spring grain crop was "unscathed" by Operation Iraqi Freedom, which was presented as good news even though the organization warned of future problems.
The FAO has previously said that nearly half of the arable land in Iraq was located in the regions that were controlled by the Kurds before Operation Iraqi Freedom, and technically still are controlled by the Kurds, even those the distinction is nowhere near as important now. It will therefore be interesting to see what steps, if any, the "Occupying Power" takes to distribute the food produced on that land throughout the rest of Iraq.
(Iraq is by no means the only country that the FAO is worried about. For instance, last Wednesday they issued a report detailing the dire situation in much of sub-Saharan Africa.)