Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Aftermath of War

Photo courtesy: Cause2.

The face of a war that finished several years ago still looms over the people of Iraq. Different areas have been affected differently; but, Fallujah, a city in the Iraqi province of Al Anbar, is one of the hardest hit. Located roughly 69 kilometers (43 miles) west of Baghdad on the Euphrates river, Fallujah has experienced a rapid, heart-breaking rise in birth defects in the last few years – ever since the war ended.

The city of Fallujah has opened a state-of-the-art hospital to help with the staggering amount and array of abnormalities the newborns of the city are presenting.

Statistically, the outcome for Fallujah is grim. The March of Dimes estimates that 6% of babies are born with defects globally; while The Guardian reports that 25% of all babies born at one hospital in Fallujah have birth defects.

Dr. Ayman Qais, director of Fallujah General Hospital and senior specialist, confirmed that there are significant increases in neurotube defects, hydrocephalus, tumors and mutations. Neural tube (neurotube) defects are inadequate closures in the brain and/or spinal cord. Specialists have finally been able to compile statistics that confirm birth defects are occurring at a rate 15 times the pre-war rate.

"We are seeing a very significant increase in central nervous system anomalies. Before 2003 [the start of the war] I was seeing sporadic numbers of deformities in babies. Now the frequency of deformities has increased dramatically."

The number of admissions has soared – from one admission a week (a year ago) to two a day now. "Most are in the head and spinal cord, but there are also many deficiencies in lower limbs," he said. "There is also a very marked increase in the number of cases of less than two years [old] with brain tumours. This is now a focus area of multiple tumours."

This from the Guardian: "The anomalies are evident all through Fallujah's newly opened general hospital and in centres for disabled people across the city. On 2 November alone, there were four cases of neurotube defects in the neo-natal ward and several more were in the intensive care ward and an outpatient clinic."

While the hospital, the newborns and their families fight courageously for their survival, the sad truth is that many just don’t make it. Sky News reports: “At one of the cemeteries in Fallujah, undertaker Mahmoud Hummadi said he usually buries four to five bodies of newborns every day and most of them are deformed.”

Those that are lucky enough to make it face lives full of intensive and expensive care.

Next blog: What many feel the cause of the birth defects is and ways we can help stop use of this controversial “weapon”.

This video contains disturbing images; but, is an excellent depiction of the aftermath of the war and the effects it is still having on the people.

This video has disturbing images. Please view with discretion.

The information given with this video is as follows:
Young women in Fallujah in Iraq are terrified of having children because of the increasing number of babies born grotesquely deformed, with no heads, two heads, a single eye in their foreheads, scaly bodies or missing limbs. In addition, young children in Fallujah are now experiencing hideous cancers and leukaemias. These deformities are now well documented and direct contact with doctors in Fallujah report that:

In September 2009, Fallujah General Hospital had 170 new born babies, 24% of whom were dead within the first seven days and a staggering 75% of the dead babies were classified as deformed.

This can be compared with data from the month of August in 2002 where there were 530 new born babies of whom six were dead within the first seven days and only one birth defect was reported.

Doctors in Fallujah have specifically pointed out that not only are they witnessing unprecedented numbers of birth defects but premature births have also considerably increased after 2003. But what is more alarming is that doctors in Fallujah have said, "a significant number of babies that do survive begin to develop severe disabilities at a later stage".

As one of a number of doctors, scientists and those with deep concern for Iraq, Dr Chris Burns-Cox, a British hospital physician, wrote a letter to the Rt. Hon. Clare Short, M.P. asking about this situation. She wrote a letter to the Rt. Hon.Douglas Alexander, M.P. the Secretary of State of the Department for International Development (a post she had held before she resigned on a matter of principle in May 2003 ) asking for clarification of the position of deformed children in Fallujah.

Via Cause2, Sky News and The Guardian

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