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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

IRAQ: Families store food ahead of elections

BAGHDAD, 28 January 2005 (IRIN) - People in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, are stocking up on food, water and fuel in the run up to election day on Sunday amid fears of widespread violence.

"I'm really afraid about what is going to happen after the elections. The insurgents have promised that they are going to boycott elections and promote a civil war in the country. I have stored a good quantity of food for my family just in case," Hannan Yacoub, 43, from Dau'ud district of the capital, told IRIN.

With just a few days to go before the country goes to the polls, the authorities haven't revealed many details about the election process and residents are concerned that the state of emergency imposed by the Iraqi government during the election period could be extended.

Although the authorities said they didn't believe a civil war could break out, they added security forces were prepared for any attacks from insurgents and as soon as elections were over and life in Iraq would return to normal.

But this brings little comfort to locals as long queues continued at bread shops and supermarkets across the capital.

Shopkeepers said they were surprised at how people were buying food and other supplies and confessed that there was a similar situation when the last conflict started in April 2003.

"Some customers bring the list to us in the morning and we have employed new people to help us in the packing to cope with demand. Sure it's good for me but bad for the future of the Iraqis who just face problems," Najat Amin, a shopkeeper at Mansour district, told IRIN.

Meanwhile, some reports say many families with the means have temporarily left the country weeks earlier in fear of attacks during the election. Most of those who left have gone to neighbouring Syria and Jordan.

Sabah Kadham, deputy minister of the interior, told IRIN that this reaction was expected by the government. "I can say that they have their right to do this. They care for their loved ones, but we pray to God that it [election] occurs with peace and tranquillity," he said.

Violence has increased as the elections for 275 seats on the national assembly draw closer. At least eight car bombs exploded on Thursday across the country killing 22 people and leaving more than 55 injured, according to officials from the Ministry of Interior. Nearly six schools have been bombed which were going to serve as polling stations during the coming elections.

The Iraqi government has taken some security measures starting with a holiday between 29 and 31 January, in addition to banning travelling between governorates, private cars on streets also will be prohibited with the exclusion of journalists and workers from the electoral commission.

A Coalition force official told IRIN they believed that even with the threat from insurgents to boycott elections, families should not take it so seriously and don't have to keep food in storage and as soon as the election ends it would be safe for them to go and buy supplies.

"Unfortunately it is not a simple election, in our case a war can start any time and we just have God to ask to bless us and protect our family from any bad things happening," Suheila Adnan, 39, who was buying food at a supermarket at Yarmouk district of the capital, told IRIN.

Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Food Security, (IRIN) Governance, (IRIN) Human Rights

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This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2005



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