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War-Related Health Problems in Iraq
Mon, 10 Mar 2008 16:55:33
By Patricia Khashayar MD, Press TV, Tehran
The health problems Iraq is experiencing are part of a long deterioration of the health system
since 1991 and the recent war has just worsened the situation.
For decades, Iraq was under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein who waged a terrible war on
Iran in the 1980s, leading to the country's economic decline.
Following the invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent Persian Gulf War in 1991, the United
Nations imposed sanctions on Iraq which exacerbated the problem.
In 2003, the US/UK forces invaded Iraq under the pretext of ending the dictatorship. The
attempt to achieve a quick democracy and peace became a disaster. While the Iraqi troops
were not capable to stop the invaders, religious and ethnic factions started fighting each
other and the US/UK occupation forces.
Hundreds of thousands of soldiers were killed and the majority of the remaining soldiers are
suffering from mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),
generalized anxiety, major depression, substance abuse and impaired social function.
The Iraq war not only had a destructive impact on troops, but also on Iraqi civilians. These
effects have not been completely studied but there is depressing evidence of the future post-
war health problems in Iraqi citizens.
While injuries from violence are occupying much of the health system's resources, other
contagious diseases caused by breakdown in the country's infrastructure are contributing to
high child and infant mortality rates.
According to the UNICEF, infant mortality rate between the years 2003 and 2005 was about
102 deaths per 1,000 live births; as for children under the age of 5, the rate was reported to
be 125 deaths out of 1,000 children. Reports state these rates have had a considerable
increase compared to the year 1990.
Moreover, the civilian death toll has been immense in these years; in 2006, more than 100
deaths a day were reported from suicide bombings, roadside attacks, and other aspects of
Since the Persian Gulf War in 1991, there has been a noticeable increase in cancer and
leukemia among Iraqi children. In addition, the number of miscarriages and babies born with
birth defects has risen.
It is believed the Iraqis exposure to radioactive Depleted Uranium and chemical warfare are
the cause of a great number of deaths. Many have compared the outcomes of this war to the
aftereffects of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.
Burning oil wells and fields are another source of health problems and subsequent mortality in
this country. According to a biologist, being in Baghdad in these days is like living in a bus
garage, with all the engines running at full throttle.
Sanctions and the need for basic requirements and clean water have also resulted in the high
number of deaths during this period.