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Left behind to starve
(George Monbiot, The Guardian, March 18, 2003)
As the US prepares to spend some $12 Billion a month on bombing the Iraqis, it has so far offered only $65 million to provide them with food, water, sanitation, shelter and treatment for the injuries they are likely to receive. A confidential UN contingency plan for Iraq, which was leaked in January, suggests that the war could expose around one million children to "risk of death from malnutrition". It warns that "the collapse of essential services in Iraq could lead to a humanitarian emergency of proportions well beyond the capacity of UN agencies and other aid organisations". Around 60% of the population is entirely dependent on the oil for food programme, administered by the Iraqi government. . . . But even before the first troops cross the border, the impending war has caused a global humanitarian crisis. As donor countries set aside their aid budgets to save both themselves and the US from embarrassment under the camera lights in Baghdad, they have all but ceased to provide money to other nations. The world, as a result, could soon be confronted by a humanitarian funding crisis graver than any since the end of the second world war. . . . As a result of this unprecedented failure by the rich nations to cough up, the people of the forgotten countries will, very soon, begin to starve to death. The UN has warned that "a break in supplies" to Eritrea "is now inevitable". The World Food Programme has started feeding fewer people there, but will run out of food within two months. In Burundi it can, it says, continue feeding people "for another four weeks". Beans will run out in Liberia this month; cereals in May. One hundred thousand refugees in Guinea could find themselves without food by August. Yet neither of the two governments which are about to launch a "humanitarian war" appear to be concerned by the impending humanitarian catastrophes in the world's poorest nations. . . . The Afghan government, which has an annual budget of just $460m - or around half of what the US still spends every month on chasing the remnants of al-Qaida through the mountains - is effectively bankrupt. At the beginning of this month the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, flew to Washington to beg George Bush for more money. He was given $50m, $35m of which the US insists is spent on the construction of a five-star hotel in Kabul. Karzai, in other words, has discovered what the people of Iraq will soon find out: generosity dries up when you are yesterday's news. . . . If, somehow, you are still suffering from the delusion that this war is to be fought for the sake of the Iraqi people, I would invite you to consider the record of the prosecuting nations. We may believe that George Bush and Tony Blair have the interests of foreigners at heart only when they spend more on feeding them than they spend on killing them.

posted by Lorenzo 11:25 AM

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