The United Nations has reported that rising violent crime and other security concerns are still hampering the international relief effort in Iraq.
"Security continues to be a concern for humanitarian operations," Veronique Taveau, the spokesperson for the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, told the press in Baghdad on Sunday. "The incidence of 'drive-by' shootings, rocket-propelled grenade attacks and violent crime is increasing in Baghdad."
The insecurity is being fueled by the black market, where AK-47 assault rifles cost about $50 each.
In an effort to help stabilize the situation in Iraq, where unemployment remains high while public services have collapsed, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has launched a programme aimed at providing jobs for some 250,000 people. "UNDP plans for an exponential increase of these urgently needed activities, subject to the availability of funds," Ms. Taveau said.
Meanwhile, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), is working to address Iraq's high rate of malnutrition, estimated to have nearly doubled among the young, from 4 per cent before the war to 7.7 per cent now. "Children who are acutely malnourished are literally wasting away and for severe cases, their condition can be fatal," said agency spokesman Geoffrey Keele.
Prior to the outbreak of conflict, UNICEF was supporting a network of care centres where malnourished children could receive treatment. "Unfortunately, this system collapsed with the onset of the fighting," Mr. Keele said. "UNICEF is now working hard to re-establish the entire network in order to reach all children suffering from malnutrition."
Some success has already been achieved in Umm Qasr and in Baghdad, he added.
Complementing these efforts, the World Food Programme (WFP) is planning to disburse food throughout Iraq starting on 1 June. "This is the first nationwide public distribution since before the war," noted WFP spokesperson Antonia Paradela. At the same time, she added, "a mix of food commodities, including wheat flour, bulk wheat, lentils, vegetable oil and pulses continues to be brought into Iraq" to supplement local harvests.