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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

IRAQ: Concerns over fuel shortages as winter approaches

BAGHDAD, 24 November 2005 (IRIN) - A shortage of fuel in the capital, Baghdad, has left hundreds of Iraqis queuing for hours, with some forced to pay extortionate prices for the commodity on the black market.

The shortfall, which reportedly began in the beginning of November, includes both kerosene and liquid propane gas (LPG), both of which are used for heating during winter months.

Petroleum minister officials complain that the deficiency is largely a result of an increase in sabotage at the nation’s oil refineries, as well as attacks on distribution stations in and around the capital.

“With constant attacks, we’ve had difficulty meeting demand,” said Assem Jihad, a spokesperson for the petroleum ministry. “And the existence of a black market for such products has just made the situation worse.”

In response, the ministry began issuing coupons last October for set amounts of both LPG and kerosene, in an effort to ensure citizens’ access to the vital commodity.

But according to both residents and distributors, the amounts provided are insufficient to heat the average residence for the duration of a harsh Iraqi winter. Temperatures can often reach as low as 15 degrees below zero (centigrade) in the months between December and February.

"The quantity of kerosene being provided won’t be enough for Iraqi families this winter,” said Muhammad al Rekabi, distribution manager at the petroleum ministry’s National Company for the Distribution of Oil Products.

He added, “The average household requires between 150 and 200 litres per month.”

Al Rekabi went on to explain that the ministry was only providing 30 litres of kerosene for families of six or less; 40 litres for families of up to 12 persons; and 50 litres for families of more than 12 persons, per month.

Households are also eligible to receive 45 kilogrammes of LPG per month, he added.

Meanwhile, lengthy queues in front of distribution centres around the capital, as residents wait for their share of the vital product.

"I waited the whole day to get my monthly allotment of 30 litres of kerosene, which will cover just one week of winter,” said Sa’adyah Ali, a 55-year old Baghdad resident.

Matters have only been made worse by the appearance of a virulent black market, where kerosene can be found at a 400 percent mark-up.

“I bought 20 litres of kerosene last week for US $5,” complained Khalid Samaraye, 43, also a resident of the capital. “During the Saddam Hussein era, the same amount never exceeded 30 cents.”

The owners of shops, restaurants and bakeries, meanwhile, aren’t covered by the rationing policy, meaning that they must resort to the black market for all their fuel needs.

"LPG prices now stand at $3.50 for 15 kilogrammes, and we use at least two or three kilogrammes per day,” complained Marwan Muhammad, a 40-year old coffee shop owner in the capital. “It’s really hard to afford that.”

He went on to opine, "This coupon system just encourages the black market during the winter season."


Themes: (IRIN) Early Warning




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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