Iraq — June 2010

Sociopolitical Situation

In the wake of the 7 March elections, there has been an increase in violence in Iraq. The election results left Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition trailing Ayad Allawi’s Iraqiya alliance by two seats in the 325-member parliament.

Prime Minister Maliki has refused to accept the election results. His party appealed to the Supreme Court for a manual recount of votes. The 12-day manual recount of ballots confirmed the original results, which gave the Allawi’s Iraqiya alliance the right to form the new government. The government has not certified the results and the formation of a new government could be weeks or months away. Ayad Allawi has warned repeatedly that any attempt to exclude his winning coalition from a new government could spark bloodshed, raising fears of renewed sectarian violence.

Iraq’s health care system and institutions greatly need attention and resources. For decades, they have languished; top health care officials say the last health care facility built in the provinces was during the 1970’s, while the last in Baghdad was built between 1984 and 1985. As a result, the health of the population has deteriorated. Immunization against deadly diseases has fallen between 10 and 20 percent. Cholera is endemic. The maternal mortality rates are 84 per 100,000 live births. About 14 percent of women suffer from some form of mental health problems compared to 9 percent of men. About 22 percent of Iraqi children, ages five and younger, suffer from chronic malnutrition while 5 percent suffer from acute malnutrition.

According to Inter-Agency Information and Analysis Unite, 23 percent of Iraq’s population (or nearly seven million people) are poor and live on less than $2.20 a day. Food prices have skyrocketed. At present, 3 percent of Iraqi households are classified as “food insecure,“ while 9 percent are classified as “vulnerable to food insecurity.”

Iraq’s education system also needs attention and resources. While student enrollment nationwide is low, there is a dearth of teachers and adequate schools and facilities. Approximately 14 percent of children, from ages 6 to 11, are not enrolled in school. Only 40 percent of students who complete primary school continue to secondary school. One quarter of men from ages 20 to 24 are unemployed and only 18 percent of women participate in the labor force.

The country’s water and sanitation situation is also dire; 66 percent of Iraqi households are not connected to the general water network or, if so, experience weekly or daily interruptions in water supply. In Iraq’s most vulnerable communities, as many as 73 percent of residents do not have access to safe drinking water. The country’s electrical power grid is also in shambles. Though electricity is key to stimulating the economy, the average daily supply per household is just 7.9 hours.

Religious Situation

Pope Benedict XVI has made an international appeal to protect Iraq’s vulnerable religious minorities, sending Prime Minister Maliki a written request that security be increased to this end. Since the 2003 invasion, violent extremists have been targeting Christians, forcing many of them to flee their homes to safety in the Kurdish-controlled north or in neighboring countries.

Since 2003, the number of Christians in Iraq has declined dramatically, raising concerns that the communities may disappear altogether after a 2,000-year legacy in the country. The United Nations estimates that one in three of Iraq’s 1.5 million Christians has been killed, fled the country or is an internally displaced person. Most recently, more than 4,100 Christians have fled Mosul after a car bomb attack on four buses carrying Christian students to Mosul University, which left one dead and 100 people wounded.

Bishop Warduni, first auxiliary to the patriarch of Babylon, has said that the Chaldean Church in Iraq is facing an economic crisis and cannot pay its priests’ salaries. According to the bishop, for about ten months, the finance minister of Kurdistan, Sargis Agajan, halted all funding to the Christian community, which in recent years had ensured a stable income; with the massive migration of Chaldean people, the revenue coming from church collections has halved, while the government gives no help.

Archbishop Avak Asdourian, primate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Iraq and secretary general of the Iraqi Council of Christian Church leaders, which brings together 14 Christian churches in the country, noted that many Christians voted in the recent election. The new parliament now includes five Christians, as opposed to only one in the previous parliament.

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