Displaced Iraqis Devoid of Food Rations
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
When you measure the damage from the violence in Iraq, you cannot stop with many thousands of dead. Millions of Iraqis have had to move. And this morning, a correspondent who has covered this war since the beginning will trace some of their stories.
If you visit a single Baghdad neighborhood, you can find people who've had to flee their homes, and that's creating a complication for the family we will meet first. Like many Iraqis, they depend on food rations from the Iraqi government, and like many Iraqis, they can't get those rations in their new home.
Here's the first report from NPR's Anne Garrels.
Mr. HAIDER JABER(ph) (Barber): (Arabic spoken)
ANNE GARRELS: The threat arrived at his barbershop - leave or be killed. So Haider Jaber, a barber, says he fled Abu Ghraib with his wife, two children and little else. They moved to Safraniya(ph) in southeast Baghdad. Haider is now unemployed and unable to get his government food rations. He says fasting during Ramadan has taken on a whole new meaning.
Mr. JABER: (Through translator) I don't receive any food rations because I'm still registered with the Abu Ghraib office and I can't go there to collect because I would be killed.
GARRELS: Haider says the local food ration agent told him he would have to pay the equivalent of $40 to re-register, money he doesn't have. And to get one of the only jobs available, with the police, he says he would have to pay a bribe of $500.
Mr. JABER: (Through translator) If I had $500, I'd open my own barbershop and start my own business again.
GARRELS: Haider registered with the government in hopes of getting a new job, but after going back and forth for six months, he says officials simply stopped processing any files. As for complaining about the food basket, he says it would be useless. But at least Haider Jaber has a roof over his head.
The family next door, which also fled to Safraniya, has spent the entire summer in the searing sun. Kasim Prez(ph) and his eight children have taken over the ruins of a house. The family fears they'll freeze as winter approaches. Kasim has managed to register for government food rations, but he says many promised items are missing.
Mr. KASIM PREZ: (Through translator) We haven't received rice for four months now. We finally received flour and vegetable oil for June, but only a few days ago. We've received no milk, not even for the children.
GARRELS: He says the word meat has long disappeared from the family's vocabulary. His children have an unhealthy pallor.
MUHAMMAD (Child): (Arabic spoken)
GARRELS: His son, 10-year-old Muhammad, can't remember the last time he drank milk. And now his father fears a cholera outbreak in northern Iraq could spread to the capital and to his home.
Mr. PREZ: (Through translator) I can't afford chlorine tablets. I can't boil water because we have no propane. We barely have enough kerosene to cook.
GARRELS: At the local food distribution point, manager Mahmoud Ahwad(ph) says the delivery teams blame the lack of provisions on security problems. They say they're too scared to go to certain depots to pick up supplies. But Mahmoud Ahwad says the delivery teams are stealing from the rations they do bring.
Mr. MAHMOUD AHWAD (Food Distribution Manager): (Arabic spoken)
GARRELS: He shows how the boxes had been cut and items removed. Asked why he doesn't also protest to the Ministry of Trade, which is in charge of the food distribution system, Mahmoud just shrugs as if to ask, are you nuts?
AMOS: That's one scene of life in a Baghdad neighborhood as reported by NPR's Anne Garrels.
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