Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fallujah must not be forgotten

"Children and families continue to suffer the consequences of a war they did not cause",

MEDICAL professionals working in the Iraqi city of Fallujah are appealing to colleagues abroad and anyone else with humanitarian concern to see that the United Nations World Health Organisation (WHO) publishes research findings on the fate of Fallujah's population, and that governments are not allowed to forget it.

Fallujah's civilian population was hit by Allied so-called smart bombs during the 1991 Iraq war, but the city was not initially affected badly by the 2003 invasion. However in two later counter-insurgency operations at least 36,000 homes were destroyed in Fallujah, as well as schools and mosques.

The US forces at first denied that they were using white phosphorus against personnel in Fallujah, but later it was confirmed they had. The effect of depleted uranium munitions used in Iraq may still have to be accurately assesssed. But reports on Fallujah by experts compare symptoms and mutations at birth to those found at Hiroshima.

Now a hospital specialist in Fallujah has expressed concern that the WHO is sitting on the information it has which should have been published this year.
"My name is Dr Samira Alaani and I am a pediatrician working in Fallujah General Hospital. In the years since US forces attacked our city my colleagues and I have recorded a horrifying increase in the numbers of babies born with congenital defects: spina bifida, heart abnormalities and defects that I do not even have a name for. Many do not survive. For those that do, we care for them as best we can with the limited resources we have.
 I have worked in Fallujah as a Pediatrician since 1997 but began to notice something was wrong in 2006 and began logging the cases; we have determined that 144 babies are now born with a deformity for every 1000 live births. We believe it has to be related to contamination caused by the fighting in our city, even now, nearly 10 years later. It is not unique to Fallujah; hospitals throughout the Anbar Governorate and many other regions of Iraq are recording increases. Every day I see the strain this fear puts on expectant mothers and their families. The first question I am asked when a child is born is not ‘is it a boy or a girl?’ but ‘is my child healthy?’

When I heard that the Iraqi Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) were going to carry out research I finally felt a glimmer of hope. I knew it would only confirm what we already knew; that there had been a rise in birth defects, but I saw it as a stepping stone to finally spur Iraq and the international community into action.

The research is now complete and we were promised that it would be published at the beginning of 2013, yet six months later the WHO has announced more delays. We worry that this is now politics, not science. We have already waited years for the truth and my patients cannot wait any longer. The WHO has another option. The data should be published in an open access journal for independent peer review. The process would be fast, rigorous and transparent.
My patients need to know the truth, they need to know why they miscarried, they need to know why their babies are so ill but, most importantly, they need to know that something is being done about it. The Iraqi Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation need to release this data and give us answers.

                                            Samirah Alaani "

Dr.Alaani and her colleagues are asking people to sign this petition and show that the rest of the world has not forgotten about the people of Iraq.

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