By Ghali Hassan
01 December, 2004
the US military invasion and occupation of Iraq, Iraq's health care
system has deteriorated as a result of deliberate destruction by the
US administration. The most vulnerable victims of this destruction are
the Iraqi children, particularly children under the age of five. A detailed
new study by the British-based charity organisation (Medact) that examines
the impact of war on health, revealed cases of vaccine-preventable diseases
were rising and relief and reconstruction work had been mismanaged.
Gill Reeve, the deputy director of Medact who released the report said,
"[t]he health of the Iraqi people has deteriorated since the 2003
"The 2003 war
not only created the conditions for further health decline, but also
damaged the ability of Iraqi society to reverse it". A second report,
to be released soon, revealed that acute malnutrition among Iraqi children
between the ages of six months and 5 years has increased from 4% before
the invasion to 7.7% since the US invasion of Iraq. In other words,
despite the 13-years long genocidal sanctions, Iraqi children were living
much better (by 3.7%) under the regime of Saddam Hussein than under
the tyranny of George Bush.
The report, which
was conducted by the Norway-based Institute of Applied International
Studies, or Fafo, in cooperation with the Iraq's Central Office for
Statistics and Information Technology, Iraq's Health Ministry, and the
UN Development Program (UNDP), shows that about 400,000 Iraqi children
are suffering from 'wasting' and 'emaciation' - conditions of chronic
diarrhoea and protein deficiency. The reality is, the world would be
better off without George Bush.
A recent UNICEF
report shows that, "[b]efore 1990 and the imposition of sanctions,
Iraq had one of the highest standards of living in the Middle East".
Now UNICEF reports, "at least 200 children are dying every day.
They are dying from malnutrition, a lack of clean water and a lack of
medical equipment and drugs to cure easily treatable diseases".
The UNICEF report shows that, child mortality was not getting any better
since the conflict started in 2003 and that the death rate among children
that there are about 6,880 deaths of children under the age of five
every year in Iraq, with an under-fives mortality rate of 125 per 1,000
live births. Furthermore, the mortality rate of Iraqi women during pregnancy
and childbirth has reached three times the rate reported during the
period between 1989 and 2002, a study by the United Nations Population
A medical delegation
from the American Friends Service Committee found that years of sanctions
"have had their severest impact on families and children there,
producing a generation of young people weakened by disease, isolated
from the outside world and left to feed on feelings of bitterness and
injustice". In its report, the delegation noted that, "the
consequences of the sanctions fall most heavily on children. While adults
can endure long periods of hardship and privation, children's physiological
immaturity and vulnerability provide them with less resistance. They
are put at greater risk and are less likely to survive persistent shortages"
of food and health care.
Earlier report by
the UN stated that before the first US war, "Iraq had an extensive
national health care network. Primary care services were available to
97% of the urban population and 71% of the rural population". Every
Iraqi citizen had the right to free health care provided by the government.
In 1991, Iraq had 1,800 primary health centres, according to the UN
children's agency UNICEF.
As a result of US
war and sanctions, a decade later that number had fallen to 929, of
which a third require serious rehabilitation, one of the most pressing
needs to date. The US-British sponsored sanctions and wars against the
Iraqi people have killed more than 2 million Iraqi civilians, a third
of them were children under the age of five. Iraq's health care and
education systems were deliberately targeted for destruction.
Under the US-UN
imposed genocidal sanctions, Iraq's public health care system has eroded
at every level. Life-saving medical supplies such as chemotherapy drugs,
antibiotics, vaccines etc., are either banned or delayed under the dual-use
policy. Medical equipments that Iraq was allowed to import were either
blocked from delivery by US-Britain or the shipments were almost invariably
incomplete and of unusable quality.
Using the usual
mask of the UN, "the US had prevented the normal importation of
indispensable items of equipment for more than a decade" wrote
Tom Nagy of George Washington University. In his research on the effect
of sanctions on Iraq's water and the health care system, Nagy found
that the US
"intentionally destroying whatever had remained of Iraq's water
system within six months by using sanctions to prevent the import of
a mere handful of items of equipment and chemicals" that are vital
for the treatment of water.
During the US assault
on Fallujah, US forces cut off water and electricity to the city of
300,000 people. US air strikes have destroyed hospitals and medical
centres. The US took over the Fallujah General Hospital and converted
to a military hospital, thus denying the citizens of Fallujah any health
care service. On 09 November 2004, US warplanes attacked the Nazzal
Emergency Hospital in the centre of the city and completely destroyed
it. Thirty-five patients were killed, including five children under
the dozens of other civilians were killed when a missile hit a Fallujah
clinic on 09 November 2004". The air strike also destroyed the
hospital medical supplies warehouse. The destruction of Fallujah is
a crime against humanity.
As of today, the
exact number of civilians killed by the US assault on Fallujah is not
known. According to an official in the Allawi's puppet "government",
"more than 2085" Iraqis have been killed. US forces used internationally
banned weapons such as napalm, phosphorous weapons and jet fuel, which
makes the human body melt, to attack the city in violation of international
law. Medact has also called on US forces to re-evaluate the use of these
illegal weapons in populated areas, given the high rate of
The Iraqi Red Crescent
Society was prevented by US forces from entering the city to provide
supplies to the wounded civilians, and called the health conditions
in and around Fallujah "catastrophic". Eyewitnesses say most
of the victims are civilians, including, women, children, and unarmed
between the ages of 14-60 years old, who were prevented from leaving
the city before the US onslaught. Furthermore, many children have died
as a result of starvation, dehydration and outbreaks of diarrhoeal infections.
Director Carol Bellamy said that the death of was "an unconscionable
slaughter of innocents". "The killing of children is a crime
and a moral outrage", Bellamy added. Medact says: "The war
is a continuing public health disaster that was predictable - and should
have been preventable". It added that, "[e]xcess deaths and
injuries and high levels of illness are the direct and indirect results
of ongoing conflict". According to the Medact, Iraq had also experienced
an alarming recurrence of previously well-controlled communicable diseases,
including acute respiratory infections, diarrhoea and typhoid, particularly
The Medact study
found that, "[o]ne in four people in Iraq were now dependent on
food aid, and there were more children underweight or chronically malnourished
than before the US invasion". The near disappearance of immunisation
programmes had contributed to the recurrence of death and illness from
preventable disease, and infant mortality rose due to a lack of access
to skilled help in childbirth, as well as to violence, confirming the
The Fafo report
paints a catastrophic picture of Iraq's health care under US Occupation.
"It's in the level of some African countries", Jon Pedersen,
deputy-managing director of the Norway-based Institute told The Associated
Press. "Of course, no child should be malnourished, but when we're
getting to levels of 7 to 8 percent, it's a clear sign of concern",
he added. Like the Fafo report, the Medact study specifically blames
the US Occupation for the deteriorating conditions in Iraq's health
and the tactics of the US-led occupying forces for exacerbating the
country's health problems,
particularly the decision to sideline the UN. Unreliable supplies of
electricity have made it hard to boil water for safe drinking. The destruction
of Iraq's infrastructure, including the sewage and water systems has
exacerbated the problem and led to increase in outbreaks of virulent
diseases such as hepatitis. More that 20% of urban residents and 60%
of rural Iraqis don't have access to clean water, as a result of the
destruction of Iraq's infrastructure. According to the Medact report:
"twelve percent of Iraq's hospitals were damaged during the war
and the country's two main public health laboratories were also destroyed".
In order to sale
Iraqi assets and resources, the US must render them useless first. The
deliberate targeting of Iraq's health care system for destruction is
part of the illegal armed conquest of Iraq. The objective is quite clear:
the cheap sale of Iraqi assets and resources to US corporations. The
US is unable to provide all Iraqis with acceptable and equal health
care. Health care in the US is worse than any of the developing countries,
with appalling statistics. The US is one of the few countries in the
world that do not provide universal health care for children and pregnant
women. Infant mortality, low birth weight, and child deaths under five
are ranked among the highest in the U.S. as compared to Western industrial
nations and Japan.
According to Gill
Reeve, of Medact: "Immediate action is needed to halt this health
disaster". The best and lasting solution to the humanitarian catastrophe
in Iraq is for the US to stop the violence against the Iraqi people,
withdraw its forces from Iraq, and restoration of Iraq's sovereignty.
The current interim US-appointed "government" is illegitimate.
Iraq's sovereignty should be restored to ensure the peaceful rehabilitation
of Iraq's infrastructure and health care system.
Ghali Hassan lives in Perth Western Australia: He can be reached at
(1) Medact study: