Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq


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Press Release

7 January 2003, 07:00 GMT. For immediate release.

For more information contact:
- Jonathan Stevenson (CASI coordinator) on +44 7818 651124 or
- Dr Glen Rangwala (CASI press contact) on +44 7880 665731 or
- Nathaniel Hurd (United States) on 917-407-3389 or

Confidential UN Document Predicts Humanitarian Emergency in Event of War on Iraq

A "strictly confidential" UN document, written to assist with UN contingency planning in the event of war with Iraq, predicts high civilian injuries, an extension of the existing nutritional crisis, and "the outbreak of diseases in epidemic if not pandemic proportions." The existence of the draft document, entitled "Likely Humanitarian Scenarios" and dated 10th December 2002, was first reported in the Times (London) on 23rd December 2002, but this is the first time it has been made publicly accessible. It is available at [A summary of the document and a 4-page booklet about it are also available.]

The document focuses on the likely humanitarian consequences of a range of anticipated military scenarios. It estimates that:

  • "as many as 500,000 people could require treatment to a greater or lesser degree as a result of direct or indirect injuries", based upon World Health Organisation estimates of 100,000 direct and 400,000 indirect casualties [para 23]. It indicates existing shortages of some medical items, "rendering the existing stocks inadequate" for war-increased demand [para 22], and exacerbated by the "likely absence of a functioning primary health care system in a post-conflict situation" [para 24].
  • damage to the electricity network will reduce "water and sanitation as well as health [sectors]" [para 5]. In the short term "39% of the population will need to be provided with potable water" [para 28]. The high number of indirect casualties may be because "the outbreak of diseases in epidemic if not pandemic proportions is very likely" [para 25].
  • "It is estimated that the nutritional status of some 3.03m people countrywide will be dire and that they will require therapeutic feeding [according to UNICEF estimates]. This consists of 2.03m severely and moderately malnourished children under 5 and one million pregnant women" [para 27]
  • "It is estimated that there will eventually be some 900,000 Iraqi refugees requiring assistance, of which 100,000 will be in need of immediate assistance, [according to UNHCR]" [para 35]. An estimated 2 million people will require some assistance with shelter [para 33]. For 130,000 existing refugees in Iraq "it is probable that UNHCR will initially be unable to provide the support required" [para 36]

The document also rejects comparisons with humanitarian outcomes of both the 2001 Afghanistan and 1991 Gulf conflicts, since the existing sanctions-induced humanitarian situation in Iraq has produced a population in which 16 million (60%) "have no other means with which to provide for other essential requirements" other than monthly government food rations [para 2,4,11]


Notes for editors:

1) The document is available at (transcribed version) and (scanned version - 1Mb PDF file), on the website of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq (CASI). It was provided to Nathaniel Hurd by a source at the UN, who authorised the publication of these sections of the document. CASI is a Cambridge-based NGO which exists to raise awareness of the effects of sanctions on Iraq, and campaigns on humanitarian grounds for the lifting of non-military sanctions. CASI does not support or have ties to the government of Iraq. Accompanying notes by Nathaniel Hurd are at

2) Please note this UN document is a draft. Estimates and other content may have since been revised. Additionally, several paragraphs and tables have been deleted at the request of the individual who released the document, including the entirety of page 3.

3) CASI's website can be found at; it can be contacted by email on


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