The UN in Iraq

14 March 2003
These are delicate times for the UN and UN agencies operating in Iraq. Hundreds of UN officers are based in Iraq and there are fears that an assault against Iraq could make them targets. The ability of UN staff to leave Baghdad could be constrained by the closure of routes out of Iraq and the sealing of the northern frontier.

The UN activities in Iraq are as follows:

The Office of Iraq Programme (OIP)

This was started in October 1997 to operate the oil-for-food programme, created by UN Security Council resolution 986 of October 1995. An estimated 16 million Iraqis now depend on this for practically all their food.

UN World Food Programme

The UN's frontline agency for dealing with famine is responsible for running the oil-for-food ration system in northern Iraq. It also manages programmes in the southern and central areas aimed at dealing with malnutrition and hunger-related diseases.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP)

The UNDP was entrusted by the security council under the oil-for-food-programme with the procurement, installation and commissioning of equipment for rehabilitating the electricity network in the three northern governorates of Dohuk, Urbil and Suleimaniyah. These are under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

World Health Organisation (WHO)

The WHO has a representative office in Baghdad which monitors health standards and works on programmes with the government of Iraq.

UN Children's Fund (UNICEF)

The agency runs projects with the government of Iraq and other donors, including, most recently, a polio scheme which immunised 4.2 million children aged under five. Iraq is now officially classified as being polio-free.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

At present, most of its Iraqi work is focused on refugees in Iran.

In addition, the UN Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission (UNIKOM), set up to patrol the demilitarised zone between the two countries in 1991, comprises civilian and military representatives. UNIKOM officials said on 9 March that they were preparing to pull out of the zone.

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