U.N. Officials Resign in Protest Against U.N. Sanctions on Iraq

Hans Van Sponeck, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq in charge of the oil-for-food, resigned last Sunday (2/13) to protest the U.N. relief's program for Iraqis. Van Sponeck told reporters that the oil-for-food program, which allows Iraq to sell limited amount of oil to buy food and humanitarian supplies, was barely adequate to meet the "survival requirements" for Iraq's 22 million people. Two days later, Jutta Burghardt, the head of the U.N. World Food Program in Iraq, resigned over the humanitarian situation in Iraq. Burghardt said that Van Sponeck's findings "cannot be challenged by anybody who has a perceptive mind and heart".

In an interview with a Qatari satellite television station Al-Jazira, Van Sponeck lashed out at U.N. sanctions against Iraq. "We have increasing evidence on many fronts. When you look at the mortality situation you could see there is a rising trend," He also added that: "In 1991, 56 children under the age of five per 1,000 were dying. Now 10 years later, the figure has gone up according to UNICEF to 131 per 1,000," he said in an interview from Baghdad broadcast on Thursday.

"Malnutrition, I keep saying every night one out of five Iraqi children under five goes to be malnourished," he said. "We have evidence that mental disorders of children under 14 are increasing. So there is a sense of hopelessness and can we afford, can anyone afford, to associate himself or herself with such a reality? I cannot."

Von Sponeck told Al-Jazeera the state of education in Iraq was "totally inadequate."

"There is not enough anywhere, whether it is books or pencils or classroom furniture....That is the generation that is now in Iraq being prepared for responsible citizenship of tomorrow," he said. "Today, with an unemployment rate that is estimated at between 60 and 75 percent, people depend on what is given to them and that is humiliating and it does not make for a future of self-reliance based on your efforts to earn in a dignified way a living," he added. "Every year that passes, every month in fact that passes, sees the intensity of the weight of the sanctions on the lives of people here increase," he said.

UNICEF said that nearly a million young Iraqis were not provided education and 200,000 others left school early in 1997-1998 because of the economic difficulties connected to the embargo.

Von Sponeck said, "So I am not at all alone in my view that we have reached a point where it is no longer acceptable that we are keeping our mouth shut." U.N. World Food Program chief Jutta Burghardt echoed the same sentiments. She told CNN televisions that "I find it increasingly difficult to be legally bound as we are told by New York to implements (Security Council) resolution 1284,"

These developments reflect the growing isolation of the program of U.S. imperialism, which is intent on maintaining economic sanctions against Iraq. These punitive sanctions, which, in violation of the Geneva Convention and international law, target civilians and the infrastructure necessary for their survival, are part of U.S. imperialism's war against Iraq. The sanctions aim at preventing the rejuvenation of the country, terrorizing the Iraqi people and keeping them under the thumb of U.S. imperialism. The on-going U.S. military actions against Iraq and continuing U.S. sanctions must end.