The World Health Organization (WHO), reported that “Pre-1990 Iraq reflects the health status of a modern developing society, in which the wealth it obtained from exporting its main commodity, oil, contributed to improving the quality of life of the Iraqi people, which then (1988/1989), was already at a relatively ‘satisfactory’ level, with indications of a trend for further improvement.”
UNICEF reported that, “The Government of Iraq made sizable investments in the education sector from the mid-1970’s until 1990. Educational policy included provision for scholarships, research facilities and medical support for students. By 1989 the combined primary and secondary enrollment stood at 75% (slightly above the average for all developing countries at 70%). Illiteracy had been reduced to 20% by 1987.
Education accounted for over 5% of the state budget above developing countries of 3.8%.”
After the imposition of sanctions in 1991 we know that:
1. 1.5 million Iraqi civilians have died since 1991 as a direct result of the sanctions.
2. 600,000 of the dead were children under 5 years of age according to UNICEF reports and substantiated by the Red Cross. A recent UN report stated that the infant mortality rate in Iraq is 133. This means that for every 1,000 children born, 133 will not reach the age of 5. By comparison, Canada’s infant mortality rate is less than four.
3. The number of malnourished children has increased over 300% since 1991.
4. Maternal mortality rates have more than doubled during this period of the sanctions and 70% of Iraqi women suffer from anemia.
5. Unemployment has soared under the sanctions, as has inflation. The average civilian salary, for example, is CAD$3.60 per month.
6. An estimated 800 tonnes of depleted uranium contained in ammunitions were used by the allied forces in the Gulf War. Cancer rates in Iraq have increased five-fold since the Gulf War. Childhood leukemia in Iraq has the highest rate in the world.
These undeniable facts lead me to travel to Iraq to view first hand the devastation to the Iraqi civilian population and the complete destruction of the civilian infrastructure and the civilian economy. I could no longer stand by and let the crimes continue, crimes to which the Canadian government was a partner. Tacit approval of the unjust conditions to which Iraqis were subjected was tantamount to direct involvement in the destruction.