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This includes some interesting comments from the Director of the WHO in Iraq... -------------------------------------- From: Kathy Kelly <firstname.lastname@example.org> Dear Friends, Members of our most recent delegation to Iraq returned to the US yesterday. While in Baghdad, we wrote the following statement as a summary of our activities during the trip. It's lengthy, but we hope you might find it useful in ongoing efforts to help people see that the crisis in Iraq has not ended. In 1991, the US government spoke of the ground war against Iraq as the "100 hour war." It seems to us that the 100 hour war has lengthened now to a 100 month state of sige. December 6, 1998 will mark the end of the 100th month of economic sanctions imposed on Iraq. We hope you can consider ways to use that date for outreach and education in your community. Please let us know if there is any way that we could be of assistance in raising nonviolent resistance to this cruel war. Sincerely, Kathy Kelly for Voices in the Wilderness Press Statement Voices in the Wilderness November 24, 1998 Baghdad, Iraq Contact: Voices in the Wilderness: Al Fanaar Hotel 7188007 The 18th Voices in the Wilderness (VITW) delegation arrived in Baghdad on 15 November, 1998. Since March 1996 VITW has campaigned to end the US/UN economic sanctions against Iraq. In the past ten days, members have visited schools and hospitals in Baghdad and Basra and met with three top UN officials in Iraq, the head of the World Health Organization, the Deputy Director of UNSCOM,and the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq. Mr. Tarik Aziz, Iraq's Prime Minister, spoke with the delegation for over an hour on 24 November. Below is a summary of our encounters. The six US delegation members are from Chicago, New York, Seattle, St. Louis and Worcester, MA. Julia Guest, of London, Joined the team in Baghdad, representing the UK campaign which began in January, 1998. We came to stand witness in case of a US attack on Iraq. Instead of finding fear, we found resignation. One man was asked if he had participated in any air raid drills, "Why practice going to a shelter?" he asked, "Even the shelters get hit." He was referring to the US attack on the Ameriyah shelter in February, 1991. The people we've met are vulnerable not only to bombardment but also to the brutal effects of economic warfare, from which it's nearly impossible to seek shelter. Doctors at Basra's main hospital, where twenty to thirty children are born each day, reported that last month alone, they delivered 80 infants who were born with congenital deformities. This is more than three times the rate of children born with birth defects in the United States, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Chief Resident Dr. Abdul Firas Abbas introduced team members to a 34 year old woman, Suat Jabar, who was eight months pregnant and had just learned that her baby would be born without a brain. There was no previous family history of congenital birth defects. Dr. Firas said that normally three children were born, each day, with congenital deformities. When he was a medical student, he would read about such cases and examine pictures from foreign textbooks, but rarely encountered patients wit birth defects. When we asked about what improvements had come as a result of money made available for medicines through Resolution 986, the "oil for food" deal, Dr. Firas insisted that he could observe no quantitative or qualitative improvement. He then told the story of a woman who was infertile for ten years and then finally gave birth to a child who was born with hypoglycemia, which, if untreated, can lead to fatal brain damage. The child needed a simple hypertonic solution of glucose. salt and water, but none was available. "Because of this unavailability of this simple, cheapest solution, the baby died. After 10 years of wait, the baby died because of the cheapest of drugs. It is very painful to us and to the family." Another doctor estimated that the survival rate of children with leukemia is less than 10% in Basra, whereas in the US and UK, the survival rate is generally higher than 75% (Leukemia Trust, Britain; Nelson's Textbook of Pediatrics). In Baghdad, a woman the team met at the Saddam Teaching hospital brought her five month-old child, Fouad, to the hospital for the third time. Fouad suffered from severe gastroenternitis. The woman's four other children had already died. Her grief and anxiety vividly represent our team's view that economic sanctions are a form of warfare. In an eight year state of siege imposed on civilians, hospitals are the battlegrounds, children the casualties. Dr. Habib Rejab, M.D., M.P.H., Director of the World Health Organization in Iraq, met with team members on 24 November. Asked about distribution of medicines under Resolution 986, he first noted that 1/3 of the available money goes for compensation expenses and UN supervision costs. This leaves $210 million dollars to spend on medicines and small amounts allocated for water treatment, and improvements of electrical, sanitation and education infrastructure. The WHO mandate in central and southern Iraq is to report whether the Iraqi government distribution is equitable and occurring in accord with criteria set out by the UN. "We check whether the distribution criteria are respected. We make sure the drugs have arrived in the country...We go to warehouses and check by computer what has been distributed and then we check physically at the distribution points. There are also independent geographical observers which check...all sorts of observers...WHO and other independent observers have concurred to say that the distribution is done in the most equitable way and according to the criteria set forth." We asked what problems exist for distribution in the south and central parts of Iraq. "The storage network is so poor that perishable drugs are at risk of losing efficiency," said Dr. Rejeb, pointing out that UN funds allowed renovation of storage areas in the north, but not in central and southern Iraq. "Secondly, the supply of electricity is unreliable. Vaccines are rarely kept according to requirements. There is no handling equipment, so storage space is reduced. There are no forklifts, no refrigeration trucks to distribute to the governorates, and the governorates don't have cash to pick up the medicines. The governorates are informed to come and pick up medicines on a certain date of the month and they don't come because they don't have transport. And this filters down: The health centers can't come to the centers in the governorates to pick up the medicines. They have to distribute a large quantity of drugs and they don't have computers." Detailing other frustrations, Dr. Rejeb continued, " Medical records aren't being kept properly because of lack of paper--notes are written on scraps of paper. The WCs in the hospital are insulting, the kitchens are in lamentable situations, patients are without sheets. I don't know if they are buying chlorine or detergent to clean the floors now. The equipment is mostly obsolete now. Okay, even if you get more medicines, if nothing else has changed..." Bert Sacks quoted WFP Director Holdbrook Arthur's assessment that Resolution 986 will not solve the humanitarian problem in Iraq. "This we have said very clearly," replied Dr. rejeb, "The country - everything - has collapsed. If they are permitted to sell all they want it will take them many, many years to rebuild the country." An estimated 3 billion dollars is needed to rehabilitate the health sector and this will be impossible without cash. Repairs are needed for buildings, water and sewage systems, kitchens, beds and sanitation systems. "In the US," said Dr. Rejeb, "they figure that operating costs of a hospital are 25% annually of what it costs to build the hospital. Here there were quite a few sophisticated hospitals built." On 17 November, Deputy Director of UNSCOM Mr. Jakko Ylitalo, along with the public relations spokesperson Ms. Caroline Cross, met with our delegation. Both agreed that the consequences of sanctions are terrible and sad they are eager for the sanctions to be lifted. However, they felt they are responsible only for the work of disarmament as described in their UN mandate. Ms. Cross agreed that when approached by members of the press for statements she will encourage them instead to seek out her colleagues who are working to alleviate human suffering in Iraq. VITW wrote an open letter to UNSCOM workers, which stated in part: "Iraqi Civilians are trapped in a situation over which they have no control. It seems to us that a conflict between UNSCOM and the Iraqi government could still trigger a massive attack that would compound the suffering of Iraqi people. The work of disarmament is important, yet we believe UNSCOM's efforts are being used to justify continuation of crippling sanctions and possible military strikes. In our view, as long as sanctions continue their devastation on the Iraqi people, there are bound to be other crises over weapons inspections. There are deep divisions within the Clinton administration over the use of force in Iraq. The resignation of one or more UNSCOM members would greatly strengthen the hand of those who advocate a diplomatic solution to this conflict. Such a public act would reduce the risk that UNSCOM becomes the trigger for renewed military violence. This protest would also focus world attention on the weapon of mass destruction that sanctions have become. Last month Mr. Dennis Halliday resigned, as an act of conscience, over sanctions. Similar resignation by an UMSCOM official could avert an apparently inevitable military attack and serve as the cause of peace. We know that the courageous act of one person can positively influence the course of world events. We ask each of you to consider taking such a step." Later that day, in a meeting with United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Mr. Hans von Sponek, delegation members inquired as to what he thinks of using economic sanctions to coerce a government's compliance with UN rulings. he asked with great intensity, "How could anyone in the United nations approve of sanctions?" Iraq's Prime Minister, Mr. Tarik Aziz, received the VITW delegation for an hour-long visit on November 24. He outlined a concise summary of the breakdown in relations between the United States and the United Nations. He then described effects of economic sanctions as a warfare that kills civilians. Mr. Aziz asserted that there are no benefits for US people when the US government meddles in the internal affairs of Iraq. Instead of spending 97 million dollars for killing, destruction, and the removal of the current government of Iraq, he suggested allocating such money to find, within the US, homes for the homeless, jobs for the jobless and to provide food for people who can't eat. Delegation members told Prime minister Aziz that determined groups of people, across the United States, want to live in friendly, fair relations with Iraqi people. These individuals and groups actively seek an end to the UN/US sanctions against Iraq. Yet delegation members clarified several times that these same individuals and groups are dedicated to protect human rights in every place at all times, throughout the world and within Iraq. The Voices in the Wilderness campaign advocates nonviolent resistance to injustice and opposes the development, storage, sale and use of any weapons in any area, whether they are biological, chemical, nuclear, conventional or, in the case of sanctions imposed on innocent civilians, economic. The 18th Delegation of Voices in the Wilderness Ken Hannaford-Ricardi, Worchester, MA Kathy Kelley, Chicago, IL Sr. Anne Montgomery, New York, NY Bert Sacks, Seattle, WA Mira Tanna, St. Louis, MO Julia Guest, London, UK Accompanying this delegation is Jeremy Scahill, a reporter for Pacifica Radio Voices in the Wilderness A Campaign to End the US/UN Economic Sanctions Against the People of Iraq 1460 West Carmen Ave. Chicago, IL 60640 ph:773-784-8065; fax: 773-784-8837 email: email@example.com website: http://www.nonviolence.org/vitw -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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