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March 31, 2005
Maybe The UN's Problem Is Mathematical Illiteracy

CQ reader Marc Landers thinks he's discovered why the United Nations can't keep track of the money it gets, allowing so much of it to wind up in the pockets of its own managers, such as Benon Sevan, and tyrants like Saddam Hussein. It may not happen through maliciousness -- it might be that they just don't know how to do simple math. For instance, a new report from the UN on the children of Iraq claims that the starvation rate has doubled since the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom, as the BBC reports this morning:

Increasing numbers of children in Iraq do not have enough food to eat and more than a quarter are chronically undernourished, a UN report says.

Malnutrition rates in children under five have almost doubled since the US-led invasion - to nearly 8% by the end of last year, it says. ... When Saddam Hussein was overthrown, about 4% of Iraqi children under five were going hungry; now that figure has almost doubled to 8%, his report says.

Governments must recognise their extra-territorial obligations towards the right to food and should not do anything that might undermine access to it of people living outside their borders, it says.

That point is aimed clearly at the US, but Washington, which has sent a large delegation to the Human Rights Commission, declined to respond to the charges, says the BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Geneva.

Sounds absolutely horrid, right? The bloody Americans came in and wrecked all those baby-milk factories (shades of Peter Arnett!) and now the little children of Iraq suffer more under democracy than they did under tyranny. Only that's not exactly how the UN painted the picture during the invasion, as UNICEF's earlier report shows:

The children of Iraq have been caught up in war for the third time in 20 years. Although a clear picture of the impact of the fighting on civilians has yet to emerge, UNICEF is deeply concerned by the deteriorating conditions facing children in the country.

Almost half of Iraqs total population is aged under 18. Even before the conflict began, many children were highly vulnerable to disease and malnutrition. One in four children aged under five is chronically malnourished. One in eight die before their fifth birthday.

So before the war -- "even before the conflict began" -- UNICEF reported that 25% of Iraqi children under the age of 5 were chronically malnourished, and that 12.5% of them died before even reaching the age of 5. Now that the war is over, only 8% of them are chronically malnourished, and the UN doesn't even talk about excess mortality in that age group any more. Somehow that gets transformed in Turtle Bay as "doubling", rather than "reducing by two-thirds".

The report obviously aims itself at Washington, as the BBC reports. What the BBC fails to mention is that the report is dishonest, mathematically illiterate, historically inaccurate, and a terrific demonstration why the UN cannot be trusted with money or policy. Its timing appears to have been strategized to take the heat off of Kofi Annan and the massive and grotesque scandals wracking the United Nations. All it does is underscore the underlying reasons all of these failures have occurred -- a lack of accountability and an endemic anti-democracy motivation from the member-nations that comprise the General Assembly.

UPDATE: Marc sent me the URL, so I've updated with the link to USS Neverdock.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 31, 2005 5:02 AM

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CQ reader Marc Landers thinks he's discovered why the United Nations can't keep track of the money it gets, allowing so much of it to wind up in the pockets of its own managers, such as Benon Sevan, and tyrants like Saddam Hussein. It may not happen... [Read More]

Tracked on March 31, 2005 9:05 AM



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