On The Brink
By Ghali Hassan
02 April, 2005
the US invasion and occupation of Iraq every aspect of life in Iraq
has deteriorated. A new report released to the UN Human Rights Commission
found that malnutrition among Iraqi children under the age of 5 years
have doubled to nearly 8 percent since the US invasion of Iraq as a
result of lack of clean water, food, and adequate sanitation. The report
is supported by previous studies of the crisis in Iraq since the Occupation.
It has been well documented and reported that since the early 1970s;
Iraq had one of the best national health-care systems in the Middle
East. Iraq boasted a modern social infrastructure with a first-class
range of health-care facilities, and the Iraqi people enjoyed one of
the highest standards of living in the Middle East. Iraq had used its
oil revenues, which accounted for 60% of its gross domestic product
(GDP), to build a modern health-care system with large Western-style
hospitals and modern technology. Iraqi medical and nursing schools attracted
students from throughout the Middle East, and many Iraqi doctors were
trained in Europe or the USA. Primary health-care services reached about
97% of the urban population and 78% of the rural population in 1990.
But the Gulf war of 1991 and more than 13 years of US-Britain sponsored
genocidal sanctions have left the country's economy and infrastructure
According to the
World Health Organisation (WHO), "Iraq had a modern sanitary infrastructure
with an extensive network of water-purification and sewage-treatment
systems. Water networks distributed clean, safe water to 95% of the
urban population and to 75% of those in rural areas. In 1990, Iraq was
ranked 50th out of 130 countries on the UNDP Human Development Index,
which measures national achievements in health, education, and per capita
GDP". In the 1991 US war, Iraq's infrastructure such as water purification
plants hospitals and sewage treatment plants were targeted for destruction
by the US-British air bombardments, followed by the sanctions.
During the years
of genocidal sanctions, materials and equipments related to nutrition,
health and education were banned under the so-called "dual use"
pretexts of the sanctions. The result: more than 500,000 children under
the age of 5 were killed, with the full participation and acknowledgment
of the US-Britain governments. In addition, Iraq has suffered an increase
in the rate of child mortality than any other country in the world.
However, the resilience of the Iraqi people proved to be stronger than
the genocidal sanctions, and in 2001-2002 Iraq showed some kind of normality
and improvements. Infrastructure was repaired and investments in Iraq's
economy started to grow. The food rations system implemented by the
former regime helped saved Iraqis from starvation. Access to hospital
treatment has improved, but remains not optimal. Lack of spare parts
and lack of expertise among doctors and technicians--who have long been
isolated from modern technology--restricts the use of new equipment.
But the US War
of 2003 and the Occupation have returned the country to the genocidal
years and left Iraq's economy and infrastructure in ruins. A detailed
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, deputy director of Medact, said, "[t]he health of the
Iraqi people has deteriorated since the 2003 invasion. The 2003 war
not only created the conditions for further health decline, but also
damaged the ability of Iraqi society to reverse it". Women, children
and the elderly are the most vulnerable. Children in particular because
of their not fully developed immune system. In its report of last November,
the Norwegian-based Fafo Institute for Applied Social Science found
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
sanctions, Iraqi children were living much better (by 3.7%) under the
regime of Saddam Hussein than under the Occupation. Officials from the
institute, which conducted the survey with the UN Development Program
and Iraq's Central office for Statistics and Information Technology,
revealed that the Iraqi malnutrition rate is similar to the level in
some hard-hit African countries.
The new report prepared
for the UN Human Rights Commission by the reputed Swiss professor of
Sociology, Mr. Jean Ziegler, reveals that more than a quarter of Iraqi
children do not get enough food to eat. Mr. Ziegler, a hunger expert,
is also cited The Lancet report of November 2004, which shows that more
than 100,000 Iraqi civilians - mostly women and children - have been
killed as a direct result of the invasion and occupation of Iraq than
would have been died based on the death rate before the war.
In presenting his
report Mr. Ziegler said; "Most [Iraqis] died as a result of violence,
but many others died as a result of the increasingly difficult living
conditions, reflected in increasing child mortality levels" brought
by the US war and Occupation. "The silent daily massacre by hunger
is a form of murder. It must be battled and eliminated", added
Mr. Ziegler. The report specifically cited Fallujah as a criminal case
of illegal destruction by US forces. "It is proven that at Fallujah,
denial, the blockade imposed on food and the destruction of water reservoirs
was used as weapon of war", Mr. Ziegler told journalists gathered
to hear the report summary. The practice was a "clear violation"
of the Geneva Conventions and was widely condemned for its attempts
to deny food or water supplies to the population. "I am simply
maintaining a firm condemnation, very firm, of the humanitarian consequences
of this strategy and the military tactics applied since March 2003 by
the occupying forces", said Mr. Ziegler.
The report also
criticised the policy of providing meagre resources to the international
Alliance against Hunger when compared to the "billions of dollars
spent on the 'War against Terror'". "The amount of aid being
provided for development and famine relief is falling, as money is redirected
towards strengthening national security and the fight against terrorism".
"Yet the fight against terrorism should incorporate efforts to
reduce hunger, poverty and inequality", said Mr. Ziegler. War in
itself is a form of terrorism, which must be avoided at any cost. The
war on Iraq was a premeditated murderous crime and the US Occupation
of Iraq has failed to ameliorate the living situation for the Iraqi
people. The only urgent and effective humanitarian measures to save
the Iraqi children and avoid a disaster are to end the Occupation of
Iraq, and return Iraqi to pre-war normality. The US and its "allies"
can assist the Iraqi people by providing war reparations and help them
build their country.
Ghali Hassan lives
in Perth, Western Australia.