(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Over 20 percent of Iraqis live below the poverty line

Baghdad’s rubbish dump is rapidly becoming a source of income for internally displaced persons, 1 December 2004. Twenty years of village clearances, Arabisation campaigns in ethnically mixed areas and a Kurdish civil war have forced about 800,000 people

Some 20-25 percent of Iraq’s estimated 27 million population lives below the country’s poverty line, a government survey released on 21 May has found. Though wide disparities were found between northern and southern provinces, the government said the results were better than expected.

“Poverty is concentrated in the Iraqi rural areas more than in the urban areas in all provinces,” said the survey, which was conducted by the Iraqi Ministry of Planning and Development Cooperation.

It found that the highest poverty rate was in the southern province of Muthana with 49 percent, followed by the central provinces of Babil with 41 percent and Salaheddin with 40 percent.

The lowest poverty rates were in the three northern provinces that make up Iraq’s self-ruled Kurdistan Region: Dahouk, with 10 percent living below the poverty line, and Erbil and Sulaimaniyah with 3 percent each.

The survey defines poverty as living on 76,896 Iraqi dinars (about $66) a month, or $2.2 a day.

Better than expected

Abdul-Zahra al-Hindawi, spokesman for the planning ministry's Central Organization for Statistics and Information Technology, blamed unemployment, dilapidated infrastructure and corruption as the causes for the high poverty rates - but thought the rates would have been even higher.

“We expected to find higher rates of poverty for many reasons but we found that the state-run food programme has a big role in assisting poor people," al-Hindawi told IRIN.

He added that a supreme governmental committee, made up of lawmakers and representatives of different ministries, is drawing up a strategy to alleviate poverty in the country. This 2010-2014 anti-poverty strategy will be released in the second half of 2009, he said.

“We are certain that poverty rates will be reduced in the coming few years if a big role is given to Iraq’s private sector in economic development,” al-Hindawi said.

Iraq's food rationing system, known as the Public Distribution System, was set up in 1995 as part of the UN’s oil-for-food programme following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait 17 years ago. However, it has been crumbling since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 due to insecurity, poor management and corruption.


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