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Iraq Patriarch Comments On Mortality Rates & Papal Visit

Iraq Patriarch Comments On Report Of Mortality Rates

BAGHDAD ( - "This is a massacre of innocents, a tragedy
which concerns the whole world," said Patriarch Raphael I Bidawid of
Babylon of the Chaldeans about a report recently issued by the Iraq health

According to the Health Ministry, which compared the mortality rate in
December 1989 (before the 1990 UN embargo on Iraq) with that of December
1999, more than 8,000 children were killed by the embargo in the last month
of the 20th century; the lack of medicine and food caused by the embargo
strikes in particular the weakest, children, and elderly; and there has
been a frightening increase in the infant mortality rate. 

One hundred one children under five who died of dysentery in December 1989,
while in 1999 they were 1,576. In the same age group, children who died of
malnourishment rose from 81 to 3060 and children who died of pneumonia rose
from 117 to 3,372. 

Although not so numerous, the increase in the number of deaths of people
over fifty is still appalling, according to the patriarch. In December
1989, 91 died of illness connected with high blood pressure; in December
1999, 594 died of the same cause. People who died of diabetes increased
from 82 to 831, and people who died of cancer also increased from 347 to

"The health ministry figures are substantially confirmed by inquiries made
by United Nations commissioners who visit hospitals. These deaths are the
strongest proof which should move the world to take action to do something
against the embargo," the patriarch said. 

The patriarch also commented on the proposal to appoint Hans Blix to head
the new UN commission to monitor Iraq's disarmament: "I have never met Blix
but France's opposition to the appointment of Rolf Ekeus and the support of
Paris, Moscow, and Beijing for Blix, would make me think that he is a
reliable person." Ekeus' candidacy as head of the UN mission was rejected
by France, Russia, and China. 

Patriarch Bidawid returned to the subject of the canceled papal visit to Ur
of Chaldea: "I still keep hoping. The visit has been postponed until who
knows when. But I am sure that the prayers of the whole world and the Holy
Father's determination will not be disappointed." 

Chris Cole
Southwark justice and Peace Office
0171 928 9743
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