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Many problems of nutrition and health can arise not just from military but also from economic warfare—as the outside world tries to put pressure on errant regimes. While the United Nations finds itself caring for war-torn communities, the Security Council is imposing economic sanctions that create many of the same problems for the poor and vulnerable—leaving the real targets virtually untouched.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations himself recognizes this dilemma. In June 1995, he described sanctions as a blunt instrument. "They raise the ethical question," he said, "of whether suffering inflicted on vulnerable groups in the target country is a legitimate means of exerting pressure on political leaders whose behaviour is unlikely to be affected by the plight of their subjects."37

The balance sheet of several years of sanctions against Iraq reveals a minimum of political dividends as against a high human price paid primarily by women and children. The food rationing system provides less than 60 per cent of the required daily calorie intake, the water and sanitation systems are in a state of collapse, and there is a critical shortage of life-saving drugs.38 In Haiti, too, sanctions are thought to have cost the lives of thousands of children (Panel 4).

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