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[casi-analysis] casi-news digest, Vol 1 #161 - 2 msgs

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Today's Topics:

   1. Iraqi Children Pay Silent Cost of Occupation: Report (Mark Parkinson)
   2. IRAQ: High levels of radioactive pollution seen in the south (Mark Parkinson)


Message: 1
From: "Mark Parkinson" <>
Date: Sun, 21 Nov 2004 18:32:45 -0000
Subject: Iraqi Children Pay Silent Cost of Occupation: Report

The study says Iraq=92s malnutrition rate is far higher than in Uganda
and Haiti

CAIRO, November 21 ( =96 Iraqi children are paying the
silent cost of the US-led occupation with malnutrition rates
exceeding by far those in the world=92s poorest and disease-plagued
countries, a leading US newspaper reported on Sunday, November 21.

Acute malnutrition among Iraqi children has nearly doubled since the
US invaded the country 20 months ago, The Washington Post reported,
citing a study by Iraq's health ministry in tandem with Norway's
Institute for Applied International Studies and the UN Development
Program (UNDP).

=93After the rate of acute malnutrition among children younger than 5
steadily declined to 4 percent two years ago, it shot up to 7.7
percent this year,=94 concluded the study.

=93Iraq's child malnutrition rate now roughly equals that of Burundi, a
central African nation torn by more than a decade of war. It is far
higher than rates in Uganda and Haiti.=94

The study further put at some 400,000 the number of Iraqi children
suffering from =93wasting=94, a condition characterized by chronic
diarrhea and dangerous deficiencies of protein.

The United Nations children's fund (UNICEF) had warned that the
number of children who suffer from diarrhea, Iraq's number one killer
of infants, has more than doubled under occupation.

Iraqi doctors attributed the increase in malnutrition to dirty water,
unreliable supplies of the electricity needed to make it safe by
boiling and a crippled economy.

The study said 60 percent of rural residents and 20 percent of urban
dwellers have access only to contaminated water.

=93I've heard of typhoid cases,=94 Zina Yahya, a nurse in a Baghdad
maternity hospital, told the Post.

=93Even myself, I suffer from the quality of water.=94

=93They tell me I have anemia,=94 added pregnant Yusra Jabbar, noting
that doctors said almost all the pregnant women in the hospital do.

The World Health Organization (WHO) expected in May 2003 a cholera
epidemic in southern Iraq, and warned that other infectious
waterborne diseases could break out.


There is, in effect, increasing disillusionment with the US and its
=93liberation=94 rhetoric after health care conditions and unemployment
rates hit all-time low.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington
research group, said health care was worsening at the quickest pace.

Deteriorating basic services take lives that many Iraqis said they
had expected to improve under American stewardship.

=93These figures clearly indicate the downward trend,=94 Alexander
Malyavin, a child health specialist with the UNICEF mission to Iraq,
told the American daily.

Kasim Said, a day laborer, was at Baghdad's main children's hospital
to visit his ailing year-old son Abdullah, who weighs just 11 pounds.

=93Things have been worse for me since the war,=94 he said.

=93During the previous regime, I used to work on the government
projects. Now there are no projects,=94 said the father.

The Post said after the 1991 Persian Gulf War left much of the
capital a shambles, Saddam Hussein's government restored electricity
and kerosene supplies in only two months.

=93Believe me, we thought a magic thing would happen=94 with the fall of
Saddam, said an administrator at Baghdad's Central Teaching Hospital
for Pediatrics.

=93So we're surprised that nothing has been done. And people talk now
about how the days of Saddam were very nice.=94

Mark Parkinson


Message: 2
From: "Mark Parkinson" <>
Date: Sun, 21 Nov 2004 19:37:24 -0000
Subject: IRAQ: High levels of radioactive pollution seen in the south

Iraqi environmental scientists investigating radioactive pollution
around the southern city of Basra are finding alarmingly high levels
of radiation left by the use of depleted uranium (DU) in recent wars.

BASRA, 18 Nov 2004 (IRIN) - Iraqi environmental scientists
investigating radioactive pollution around the southern city of Basra
are finding alarmingly high levels of radiation left by the use of
depleted uranium (DU) in recent wars.

But given the lack of a permanent, elected government in Iraq and
poor security, they are finding it difficult to get permission to
remove contaminated material amid growing instances of cancer and
birth defects in the area.

One such scientist is Khashak Wartanian, a researcher at the
University of Basra on radioactive pollution, who also works for the
city's Environmental Direoctory. While carrying out a survey during
the summer on radiation levels in the Qibla area near Basra, he found
two Iraqi tanks which had been hit by DU-tipped ammunition. They
found children playing near the site, which was then fenced off and
marked by warning signs.

"These tanks are just two in a series of tanks and ammunition we have
uncovered since the Radiation Unit at the Environmental Directory was
set up in 2001," he told IRIN.

DU is an extremely dense, heavy metal, and a waste product of atomic
bomb production. It has a half-life of over 4 billion years. It
contains trace amounts of plutonium and is 60 percent as radioactive
as naturally occurring uranium.

According to local residents, the area was a military target during
the 1991 Gulf war and again in 2003, when it came under heavy fire
from US aircraft. Wartanian took a radiation reading of 0.6 mR/h on
one tank and 0.5mR/h on the other. "This is 1,000 times more
radioactive than average background radiation," the researcher said.

He also checked radiation levels in nearby residential areas and
found they were worringly high. In the home of Abdel-Zahra Shindy, a
resident living near the polluted site, he took a reading of 0.2 mR/h-
0.3 mR/h, compared with normal levels of 0.008R/h.

DU occurs naturally in the environment but when used in weapons it
burns releasing uranium oxide dust into the air.

Officials at the Environment Directory in Basra told IRIN that
although they were collecting data on areas exposed to radioactive
debris, the lack of government direction was making it hard to take
measures to remove material.

They added that there was also a lack of reliable information about
areas contaminated. "We only know about tanks in areas hit more than
10 years ago, during the Gulf war in 1991," an official at the
directory said. "There were more concerns with pollution during the
former regime. Two radiation units were established in Baghdad and
Basra in 2000 and were provided with the needed modern equipment,"
the official said.

The Pentagon admits to dropping 320 mt of DU in Iraq, although the
environmental organisation Greenpeace puts the estimate at over 800
mt. Immediately after last spring's war to oust the former regime,
residents said the US military cleared the area, picking up
unexploded ordnance and other debris. However, they refused to remove
many artillery pieces.

In the aftermath of the war, Wartanian made a reading around a tank
in the centre of Basra, which picked up evidence of Thorium (th324),
a DU equivalent. "Since May 2003 we have been trying to search for
more contaminated areas. We met with the WHO World Health
Organisation, as well as with British troops, to investigate the
matter but things have moved slowly due to a continuous deterioration
in security," Wartanian said.

In December 2003, 22 DU-polluted tanks were found in an area 5 km
away from Basra city, close to the Iranian border. So far his team
have found DU-polluted tanks across the south in Basra, Muthana, Abu
al-Kahsib and in Samawa.

Some local residents, unaware of the radiation danger, cut scrap
metals from DU-polluted tanks and sell them. An Environmental
Directory official said that they were trying to warn people of the
dangers of using such metal. Scrap metal plants may also have
released contaminants from destroyed military vehicles, he said.

In conjunction with the now defunct Coalition Provisional Authority
(CPA), the directory succeeded in banning licences to sell scrap
metals to other countries last June, but it is uncertain how
effective this has been given the lack of a proper government to
enforce the law.

"It was sold for 50,000 Iraqi dinars US per ton, but some people may
still be doing the business unofficially," the official said.

Another serious problem, which has long been linked to the use of DU,
is the rise in cancer and birth defects in the area. Wartanian said
that although many of the residents close to radio-polluted sites may
have registered cases of cancer, skin sensitivity and respiratory
diseases, the relation between radiation and cancer was still

However, doctors in Basra have registered an increase of incidences
of colon cancer and thyroid cancer, in addition to leukemia and

According to Dr Janan Hassan, an obstetrician at the Basra Maternity
and Children's Hospital, malignancies and leukemia among children
under the age of 15 have more than tripled since 1990.

Whereas in 1990 young children accounted for only 13 percent of
cancer cases, today over 56 percent of all cancer in Iraq occurs
among children under the age of five.

"Also, it is notable that the number of babies born with defects is
rising astonishingly. In 1990, there were seven cases of babies with
multiple congenital anomalies. This has gone up to as high as 224
cases in the past three years," she said.

Dr Jawad al-Ali, director of the Oncology Centre of Sadr Educational
Hospital in Basra, told IRIN that there were a number of cases that
led some doctors to assume DU's adverse effects on human health in

"There has been a sharp rise in cancer, birth defects, miscarriage,
and in neurological disorders, muscular disease and kidney failure;
causes have not been identified but they could be assumed to be
caused by the toxicity of DU munitions," the doctor said.

According to a study of cancer patients in Basra carried out by the
doctor in 1988, cancer rates were 11 per 100,000 people. The number
went up to 116 in 1991 and 123 in 2002. There was also a sharp rise
in the leukemia patients in 1996 and there has been another rise in
recent years. Many cases are near places where DU weapons were used,
he said.

Mark Parkinson

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