April 1, 2005 in Nation/World

U.S. rejects claim that malnutrition has increased among Iraqi children

Associated Press
 

GENEVA – The U.S. human rights delegation Thursday rejected a U.N. monitor’s claim that child malnutrition had risen in Iraq and said, if anything, health conditions have improved since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Jean Ziegler, the U.N. Human Rights Commission’s expert on the right to food, cited U.S. and European studies Wednesday in telling the commission that acute malnutrition rates among Iraqi children under 5 rose late last year to 7.7 percent from 4 percent after Saddam’s ouster in April 2003. Ziegler blamed the war for the situation.

“First, he has not been to Iraq, and second, he is wrong,” said Kevin E. Moley, U.S. ambassador to U.N. organizations in Geneva and a member of the American delegation to the 53-nation U.N. Human Rights Commission.

“He’s taking some information that is in itself difficult to validate and juxtaposing his own views – which are widely known,” Moley said, referring to Ziegler’s opposition to the U.S. military intervention in the country.

Moley rejected the rate cited by Ziegler and said malnutrition in Iraq was notoriously difficult to gauge. He noted that some estimates had put it at 11 percent in 1996 and 7.8 percent in 2000, while Saddam was still in power.

“The surveys that have been taken … have indicated that the recent rise in malnutrition rates began between 2002 and 2003 under the regime of Saddam Hussein,” Moley said.

“If anything, vaccination, food aid … has improved dramatically since the fall of Saddam Hussein,” he added.

Ziegler told the commission that more than a quarter of Iraqi children don’t get enough to eat.

The U.S. delegation said it hoped the U.N. commission will instead focus on the world’s worst human rights violators. It said it planned to lodge resolutions asking the commission to condemn abuses by two such countries, Cuba and Belarus.

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