- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 12, 2005

BAGHDAD — The Iraqi people are suffering from a desperate lack of jobs, housing, health care and electricity, according to a survey by Iraqi authorities and the United Nations that was released yesterday.

Planning Minister Barham Saleh, during a ceremony in Baghdad, blamed the dire living conditions in most of the country on decades of war but also on the shortcomings of the international community.

“The survey, in a nutshell, depicts a rather tragic situation of the quality of life in Iraq,” Mr. Saleh said at the event, attended by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s deputy representative in Iraq, Staffan de Mistura.

The 370-page report, “Iraq Living Conditions Survey 2004,” was the result of a survey conducted in the past year of a representative sample of 22,000 families comprising 150,000 inhabitants in Iraq’s 18 provinces.

The survey found that 85 percent of Iraqi households lacked stable electricity. About 54 percent had access to clean water and 37 percent are connected to sewage networks.

“If you compare this to the situation in the 1980s, you will see a major deterioration of the situation,” Mr. Saleh said, pointing out that 75 percent of households had clean water two decades ago.

“The infrastructure, particularly regarding water, electricity and sewage, is there, but it is reaching the average people on a very irregular basis,” Mr. de Mistura said.

The survey put the unemployment figure at 18.4 percent, but Mr. Saleh said underemployment topped 50 percent.

The survey said 23 percent of Iraqi children suffer from chronic malnutrition. Iraq’s population is reported at 27.1 million.

Despite a relative abundance of skilled doctors and nurses, health is another area of concern, said the report, citing antiquated equipment, a shortage of medicine and a health care system suffering from the wider infrastructure problems.

“Iraq’s educational system used to be among the best in the region. … However, over the past two decades, wars, sanctions, and harsh economic conditions have taken a toll on the educational system,” the survey said.

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