Mortality estimation is extremely challenging in all developing countries. According to the World Health Organisation, only three out of 21 countries in what they term the “Eastern Mediterranean” region have complete vital registration, and Iraq has no such recent data available.
The UN Population Division estimated that the crude death rate for Iraq was around 10 per 1,000 population in the second half of the 1990s. The UN Development Programme (www.undp.org) and World Health Organisation (www.who.int) also provide data on crude death rates. There is very little data available on child mortality, though UNICEF (www.unicef.org) has compiled data on under-five mortality in Iraq in the 1990’s. Since 2003 there has been no comprehensive record of mortality rates in Iraq, though there are a number of estimations of the number of deaths caused by violence, eg Iraqi Ministry of Health, the Iraq Body Count, and surveys published by The Lancet Medical Journal. The Government of Iraq are currently making preparations to undertake a national population census, which would provide data on mortality, fertility, and migration.
Our embassy in Baghdad regularly lobbies the Iraqi Government on the importance of supporting minority religious groups in Iraq.
The Government’s Voluntary Assisted Returns and Re-integration Programme offers a package of assistance to those Iraqis who wish to return home. 2,600 have so far taken advantage of this scheme.
We continue to raise the protection of minority groups with the Government of Iraq and with other Iraqi political and religious leaders, including Assyrians, and members of civil society organisations. During her visit to Iraq, in September, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary highlighted the importance of Prime Minister Maliki’s Government serving the rights of all communities across Iraq and addressing key issues of concern to particular communities which is an essential part of addressing the current levels of violence.
The Iraqi Constitution contains provisions which guarantee democratic principles, rights and freedoms of all individuals, including the freedom of worship. We continue to encourage the Iraqi Government to ensure these are protected.
I refer my hon. Friend to the reply given by my noble Friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, to the noble Lord, Lord Lamont of Lerwick, in another place Official Report, columns 870-71.