'In only their fourth session since being elected in March, members of Iraq's parliament on Sunday demanded to know what happened to the estimated $1 billion allocated for welfare funding by the Finance Ministry for 2010.
"We should ask the government where these allocations for widows' aid have gone," demanded Sadrist lawmaker Maha Adouri of Baghdad, one of the women who make up a quarter of the legislature's 325 members. "There are thousands of widows who did not receive financial aid for months."
Another legislator said farmers have not been paid for wheat and other crops they supplied the government for at least five months.
The cause of the shortfall was unclear, but officials have worried that the deadlock over forming a new government since March's inconclusive election ultimately would lead to funding shortages. Whatever the cause, the welfare cutoff has been felt among Iraqis.
"We are sick people and others are old, and not getting our welfare puts us in a financial crisis," said Fatima Hassan, 54, a widow who lives with her four children in Baghdad's Sadr City slum.'