UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
IRAQ: Government announces plan to fight poverty, create jobs
BAGHDAD, 30 Jan 2006 (IRIN) - In response to a study released last week revealing an increase in poverty levels by 30 percent since the US-led invasion in April 2003, the government said it was developing plans to combat the problem.
“We’ve begun studying ways to reduce poverty,” said Sinan Youssef, a senior official in the strategy department of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, which conducted the study. “The main focus will be on increasing employment rather than giving money to support families.”
On 24 January, ministry officials pointed out that more than two million Iraqis faced difficulty finding food and shelter on a daily basis. The daily income for these families was estimated at under US $2 dollars per day.
“After studies undertaken in the past six months, we found that 20 percent of all Iraqis live in poverty, with five percent of these facing deteriorating conditions,” said Amina Khaldun, a senior ministry official.
“The shutdown of the public sector and difficulties accessing educational institutions has created this situation, but violence is also a factor,” she added.
According to Youssef, emergency measures aimed at creating employment opportunities – particularly in the reconstruction sector – will begin in March.
“When the new government assumes power it will facilitate investment in Iraq like we’re seeing in the south, where security is much better,” he noted. “We’ll demand that companies operating in Iraq employ Iraqis, and we’ll give preference to companies offering more job opportunities.”
“The government will also work to increase the quantity of items in monthly food rations to promote a healthier lifestyle,” Youssef added.
Most low-income families participate in the government’s monthly food programme, although officials concede that quantities provided are inadequate to feed big families.
“I can’t get work because of my age and my only son died in the war, leaving three children who often go hungry because I can’t afford supplies,” complained Baghdad resident Baker Azize.
The anti-poverty drive is being planned and coordinated by the labour and social affairs ministry and parliament, along with recommendations from the US military.
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