War-related health problems in Iraq


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War-related health problems in Iraq

  1. 1. Press TV Print Page 1 of 2 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 sectarian violence. 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. http://www.presstv.com/pop/print.aspx?id=46832 3/17/2008
  2. 2. Press TV Print Page 2 of 2 Iraq is faced with massive public health problems; the need for basic requirements such as water, sanitation, antibiotics, medical care and vaccines has worsened the situation. Moreover, the loss of electrical generating capacity has affected hospitals, water purification and sewage treatment. Health officials have noted that over 9000 households suffer from chronic malnutrition. Furthermore, diarrhea and respiratory problems are quite prevalent in the country. Shortages of doctors, medicine and medical facilities are other causes that have plagued the Iraqi health system; even the most common and banal treatment and procedures are not available for the majority of the Iraqis. Very few patients can afford to pay the high cost of medication and other required equipments on the black market; yet these are not believed to have the desirable quality. Long years of neglect, sanctions, war and the continuing violence has left their mark on Iraq's health system which was once one of the best in the Middle East. The country currently has 240 hospitals in operation; most of them dilapidated with the newest ones built 20 years ago. Furthermore, even the operating hospitals cannot keep up with the level of emergency care needed. In addition, the shortage of medicine and equipped facilities have deteriorated the condition and made the treatment of certain conditions impossible. Basic trauma supplies like anesthesia and bandages are running out, and deliveries of stocks from humanitarian groups cannot keep up with the demand. Most of the medical professionals have fled in fear of their lives; as more than 2,000 doctors have been kidnapped or murdered since 2003. Today, almost all the senior physicians have left Iraq and only less experienced doctors and medical students are forced to fill the gaps. On the other hand, many people are afraid to leave their homes and go to hospitals; they prefer to treat their own injured, which can also be troublesome in the long run. Should the health problems continue, there will be a human catastrophe of colossal dimensions in the country. Count of views : 1722 © Press TV 2007. All Rights Reserved. http://www.presstv.com/pop/print.aspx?id=46832 3/17/2008