Reuters: The Iraq that U.S. soldiers are leaving behind as they end a 7-1/2-year combat mission and prepare to withdraw fully by end-2011 is far from stable or secure.
BAGHDAD, Aug 26 (Reuters) – The Iraq that U.S. soldiers are leaving behind as they end a 7-1/2-year combat mission and prepare to withdraw fully by end-2011 is far from stable or secure.
It does not even have a new government five months after a national election in March as Shi’ite-led, Sunni-backed and Kurdish factions continue to tussle over their share of power.
The following are some Iraqi social and economic indicators that paint a picture of the state of the country as President Barack Obama limits U.S. troop levels to 50,000 after August 31, seeking to keep a promise to American voters to end the war.
— Between 200 and 300 Iraqi civilians are killed in bomb attacks and assassinations every month. This is down from 3,000 a month at the height of the sectarian violence in 2006/07.
— A total of 4,068 civilians were killed in 2009 through acts of violence and 15,935 wounded, according to the Iraqi Human Rights Ministry.
— About 15 insurgent or militia attacks are still recorded in Iraq every day despite the fall in violence.
— At least 1.5 million Iraqis have been driven from their homes by sectarian violence to other parts of Iraq.
— Iraqi refugees registered with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in neighboring countries number 207,000, but the total living abroad is believed to be much higher, perhaps as high as 3 million. A little under 300,000 Iraqis ended up voting at Iraqi embassies abroad during an election last March.
CRIME AND JUSTICE
— At the end of 2009, about 1,200 prisoners were believed to be on death row, waiting to be executed.
— Insurgent and militia groups are increasingly turning to crime as the sectarian bloodshed ebbs. There are no reliable statistics on crime but dozens of people, including children, are thought to be kidnapped for ransom every month.
— Criminals have staged increasingly brazen and bloody assaults on gold markets, banks and employees carrying state company payrolls. Five government workers were killed this week by robbers who stole $400,000 in oil refinery wages. In May, robbers killed 14 people in a raid on a Baghdad gold market.
— Unemployment officially stands at 18 percent but experts believe it is closer to 30 percent. The lack of jobs in particular affects young Iraqis, who could take up arms or turn to crime if they find no legitimate way to support themselves.
— More than 95 percent of government revenues come from oil exports.
— Iraq has signed deals with global oil firms to develop its oil reserves — the world’s third largest — that could quadruple its oil output capacity to Saudi levels of 12 million barrels per day and give it billions of dollars to rebuild.
— The vast majority of Iraqi households get just a few hours of public electricity per day. Intermittent electricity is one of the public’s top complaints.
— Iraq’s available power capacity is about 9,000 MW. Demand is estimated at 14,000 MW during the summer when temperatures frequently exceed 50 degrees Celsius.
— According to government statistics cited by the International Committee of the Red Cross, one in four of Iraq’s 30 million people does not have access to safe drinking water.
— There are 7 million Iraqis living below the poverty line, or 23 percent of the population of the country. — Severe malnutrition for some is kept at bay by the existence of a massive public food ration programme
— Corruption has been a problem for Iraq since before the U.S.-led invasion, but the chaos of war has let it flourish.
— Transparency International’s 2009 corruption perceptions index ranked Iraq 176th out of 180 countries for corruption.
— Slightly more than 300,000 Iraqi youths aged 10-18 have never attended school.
— A recent United Nations survey found that 65 percent of Iraqi youth do not know how to use a computer.
— The same poll found that 62 percent of the youths interviewed believed that a family member could kill a girl for violating a family’s honor and 92 percent agreed that a woman should seek permission before going to work.
— Iraq suffers from an acute shortage of hospitals. It has 35,000 hospital beds but needs 95,000, according to the Health Ministry.
— The UNDP and UNICEF said in a report published last year that Iraq is one of the most heavily mine-contaminated countries in the world. At least 20 million anti-personnel landmines are thought to remain in border areas and around southern oilfields.
WIDOWS AND ORPHANS
— There is no official data on widows and orphans in Iraq after decades of war, but Iraqi officials estimate the number of widows at no less than 1 million, with 3 million orphans.
Sources: United Nations, Central Bank of Iraq, Ministry of Health, U.S. Forces – Iraq, the Central Organization of Statistics and Information Technology (COSIT), Iraqi officials, Reuters, ICRC
(Reporting by Michael Christie and Aseel Kami in Baghdad; Editing by Matthew Jones)