Iraq's humanitarian catastrophe: the facts and figures
As General Petraeus presents his own report on the US military "surge", here is Avaaz's digest of the harsh realities of the Iraqi humanitarian catastrophe in facts and figures:
Biggest refugee exodus in the world today.
Over 4 million Iraqis are refugees from their homes - the UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that over 2 million refugees have now fled the country and 2.2 million are internally displaced, totalling over one-sixth of Iraq's population. Over 60,000 are currently leaving their homes every month.
Savage ethnic cleansing.
Deliberate ethnic cleansing - often by government-linked militias - is central to the refugee exodus. Baghdad, a city of over 5 million people, has undergone the worst of the ethnic cleansing under the eyes of Iraq's Shiite-dominated government. The capital city's population is reported by US military officials to have changed from 65% Sunni to 75% Shiite over the last four years (of the millions of Sunni Baghdadis, well over half have been forced out, along with Christian and Palestinian communities). Baghdad now has almost no multi-confessional neighbourhoods left.
More deaths than Darfur?
Iraq is a complex conflict in a collapsing state which the media has found it hard to cover. It is thus extremely difficult to verify the true scale of killing. A controversial 2006 Johns Hopkins University study estimated the death count at 655,000 (though elements of its methodology have been questioned, it took a similar approach to estimates previously made for Darfur and the Congo). Most experts -- including those involved in smaller verified counts - now acknowledge that the true death total runs into hundreds of thousands: as Iraq breaks down, much of the violence cannot adequately be tracked.
The killing has accelerated between 2006 and 2007.
US officials have made much of a brief fall in "number of attacks" and narrowly-defined "ethno-sectarian violence" by comparison with December 2006 (a truly terrible month). But most independent sources suggest that this badly misrepresents the facts. Associated Press reports have documented almost twice as many Iraqi civilians on average dying daily this year - 62 per day in 2007, against 33 per day in 2006.
Other independent figures on fatalities tend to support this trend, and suggest that the US military surge concentrated on Baghdad has displaced violence outside the capital. One recent report suggests that the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior may have begun to manipulate casualty figures.
Electricity, food and water supplies are running short.
US ambassador Ryan Crocker reported in July 2007 that Baghdad residents now have on average only an hour or two of electricity each day. Total power generation is falling, and insurgents and militias are sabotaging facilities and stealing power. The US has now washed its hands of the electricity crisis, and some provinces have started to disconnect their power plants from the national grid.
Billions in development assistance have been squandered on poor projects, further "security" measures, and through corruption. Oxfam and the NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq report that 28% of Iraqi children are malnourished, four million people regularly cannot buy enough to eat, and 70% are without adequate water supplies. The World Health Organisation has been fighting a cholera outbreak in the supposedly safe north. Iraqi officals report that the food rationing system on which millions depend is breaking down.
Iraqis have little or no confidence in the US, and in their own government.
An August 2007 BBC/ABC/NHK poll of Iraqis found that only 15% now express confidence in coalition forces - the lowest figure since 2003. 70% of Iraqis believe that both security and the conditions for political dialogue in their country have worsened over the six months of the US military "surge", and 72% believe the presence of US forces is making security worse, not better. 46% think US withdrawal will make civil war less likely, and only 35% think it will be more likely. Almost two-thirds of Iraqis say the Maliki government is doing a bad job, and disapprove of the prime minister personally.
Most people in Iraq and around the world want withdrawal soon - but it's just not happening.
79% of Iraqis oppose the continuing presence of Coalition forces in Iraq, and 47% are so desperate as to want an immediate departure. Their views are echoed by citizens around the world: 67% of those polled in a massive international survey by the World Service want withdrawal within a year.
There are currently 168,000 US troops in Iraq. General Petraeus has announced the possibility of 30,000 combat troops being withdrawn by summer 2008. This would only bring the US troop level back to the point it was at in January 2007 - and, indeed, in 2003. Withdrawal is not yet on the cards - nor is real political reconciliation.
But most Iraqis support reconciliation in a single, non-confessional Iraq.
As of August 2007, 62% of Iraqis want a unified, central Iraqi state rather than partition - the strongest support on record. 98% say that the separation of people along sectarian lines is a bad thing.
Click here and act now to stop this catastrophe. Join over 100,000 people in calling for an international peace conference held by impartial mediators, to broker a political solution to the war and full US withdrawal. Time is running out for Iraq.
This article from Avaaz.org.