NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Experts Claim Sanctions Have Negative Effects On Iraqi Children

July 18, 2000

Sanctions imposed on Iraq by the United States and the United Nations prior to and after the Gulf War led to an increase in infant mortality, claim some medical experts. Two researchers analyzed data gathered by American researchers in personal interviews with Iraqi citizens following the Gulf War. The data compared children's health from January-August 1990 (the period before sanctions) to September-December 1990, four months when sanctions were in effect.

  • The researchers found an increase in infant mortality from 32.5 per 1,000 to 93 per 1,000 during sanctions.
  • Sanctions also increased the risk of any young child dying.
  • However, verification of the births and deaths of young children was limited because Iraq's vital registry was incomplete -- listing only about 30 percent of all deaths.

Other events -- troop mobilization and the withholding of food or medicines in anticipation of pending shortages -- occurred during the sanctions period that could have had an effect on infant mortality.

Other events occurred during the same time period -- invasion and annexation of Kuwait by Iraq, naval blockade of Iraq by the United Nations, and declaration of a holy war by Iraq against the U.S. and Israel. These may also have had an effect because Iraq had already adopted wartime measures.

The researchers conclude sanctions have a negative effect on children by distorting the economy. They also say exemptions for "humanitarian reasons," while making the sanctions more politically acceptable, have had only a limited effect on Iraqi citizens' health.

Sources: Beth Osborne Daponte and Richard Garfield, "The Effect of Economic Sanction on the Mortality of Iraqi Children Prior to the 1991 Persian Gulf War," American Journal of Public Health, April 2000; and "The Gulf War," Beyond Broadcast Curriculum and Guide, PBS and WGBH Educational Foundation, 1998.

For Gulf War Timeline:


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