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U.N.: Iraqi children may confuse rations, bomblets

An Iraqi civilian detainee eats a humanitarian ration given to him by U.S. Marines Tuesday, southeast of Baghdad.

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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- The United Nations warned Wednesday that humanitarian food rations being distributed in Iraq by U.S.-led coalition forces are wrapped in the same yellow packaging as deadly so-called bomblets being airdropped by the coalition.

Bomblets are individual units of cluster bombs and are made of metal. They are shaped like a soft drink can and are packed with high explosives. Cluster bombs contain about 200 small so-called bomblets designed to scatter themselves over a large area, targeting troops and military vehicles.

A written release from the U.N. International Children's Emergency Fund said, "Confusing unexploded ordnance with food places children at huge risk of injury or death. UNICEF urges coalition forces to urgently change the color of these rations."

U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said, "Humanitarian daily rations being handed out by U.S. and U.K. forces in southern Iraq are wrapped in bright yellow plastic wrap, a color that is identical to the color of a bomblet that has been used in airdrops in the fighting. UNICEF is urging coalition forces to use rations that are wrapped in other colors besides yellow to avoid confusion."

While -- unlike bomblets -- the rations are not being air dropped, UNICEF said, "children could still confuse the ration and the unexploded ordnance."

The U.S. Central Command did not offer immediate comment on the U.N. warning.

Shortly after the beginning of the U.S. bombing of Taliban and al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan in 2001, possible confusion between bomblets and food rations prompted the U.S. military to broadcast warnings to inform people how to differentiate between bomblets and airdropped food parcels, both of which were yellow.

At the time, weapons experts said as many as one in 10 bomblets failed to explode on impact and posed a considerable danger, particularly to children who were attracted to them because of their bright coloring.

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