Human rights activists, scientists, and health professionals have requested the action of the World Health Organization (WHO) who has yet to release a report it wrote in conjunction with the Iraqi Ministry of Health. The study, which surveyed the number of birth defects and cancer cases in the country, began a year ago and concluded just last October.
Between the years 2002 and 2005, anywhere between 2,000 and 4,000 tons of bombs were dropped on Iraqi cities, leaving lead, mercury, uranium and other toxic materials in its wake. With at least a decade of heavy warfare in Iraq, scientists have unanimously agreed that the release of this report will provide important information on the consequences of such activities. Policy makers can then begin forming and prioritizing public health in Iraq.
Reports of birth defects, sterility, miscarriages, and stillbirths are increasing in number, as the devastating social effects of war become visible.
Fallujah, one area that was hit hard in the war, has seen frequent cases of birth defects. One doctor reported seeing between two and three deformed babies a day in the hospital. Ophthalmologists are seeing newborn patients suffering with eye deformities.
Why hasn’t the WHO released this study, even though it concluded over 6 months ago? The reason may be found in the United States government’s fear of information being released that will tarnish its reputation in Iraq. It also perhaps will increase its indebtedness to the country, making it responsible for environmental and health disasters. Nonetheless, such withholding of information leaves millions of Iraqis in a major health crisis that is not being immediately addressed.
The obvious effects of warfare often make the headlines easily. However, the long term implications of warfare are far greater than we can imagine. An estimated 4.5 million children in Iraq have lost one or both parents, leaving as much as 14% of the population as orphans. Now, parents are traumatically losing their children due to the chemical remnants of weaponry.
More attention must be called to these issues, due to the fact that health is a priority, a basic human right. This report, like so many others already have, should not be swept beneath the rug as something trivial.
– Aysha Rasool