Your oil for food rations - if you’re lucky

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Prakash Shah, new Special Envoy of the UN Secretary- General in Baghdad. The Sec-Gen said after he did his deal with Tareq Aziz that he needed "improved lines of communication between the Government of Iraq and my Office to help avert the development of such difficulties into fully fledged crises”.

There's a display case in the lobby of the United Nations headquarters with plastic bags containing the agreed monthly food ration for an Iraqi family under the oil-for-food programme. It's right next to the entrance to the well-appointed UN cafeteria.

You're supposed to get (but don't always, because of delays in approvals and shipments):


9 kg flour
2.5 kg rice
2 kg sugar
150g tea
1 kg lentils and/or beans
150 g salt
1 kg cooking oil
2.7 kg baby milk
250 kg soap
350 g detergent

The bag of flour looks fairly heavy, but the rest would fit easily into a couple of Tesco bags.

The UN says this 'food basket' provides 2,030 calories per person per day and includes 47 grams a day of vegetable protein (about what you'd get from one plate of beans on toast). They want to increase this to 2,463 calories per person per day and 63.6 grams of protein - including animal protein such as cheese or powdered milk for adults for the first time.

The UN estimates that current medical supplies under the programme are even more inadequate, perhaps only half what is required. Before the Gulf War, Iraq spent $30 per person per year on medicine. This fell to $2-3 in 1995-96 and is still only at $16. It also wants to spend more money on rehabilitating hospitals, since drugs are useless unless hospitals have reliable electricity and clean water.

The UN is negotiating now both with member states in the Security Council and with Iraq to increase the oil for food deal. But there's a long way to go. Iraq's oil wells and pipelines have to be repaired to be able to pump enough oil to earn the extra money, and a political argument has to be settled over how much of the extra money will go to food and medicine and how much into the Compensation Fund for war damages.

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 Sanctions tImeline
 Five Children a Day
 Oil For Food