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Silent Hiroshima culls a nation's children

Felicity's article:
Sandeep Vaidya wrote:

 The Sunday Independent, Dublin
 Aug 6, 2000
Silent Hiroshima culls
a nation's children
UN sanctions on Iraq are destroying an entire
TODAY, Hiroshima Day, is the tenth anniversary of
the imposition of United Nations sanctions on
The most draconian embargo ever imposed has
resulted in a silent Hiroshima for Iraq's
population, one third of whom are under 15 years old. When
Martti Ahtisaari, then United Nations Special
Rapporteur, visited Iraq immediately after the
1991 day Gulf war, he said: ``Nothing we had seen or
heard could have prepared us for this particular
devastation - a country reduced to a
pre-industrial age for a considerable time to come.''
Since then, the country has slid from the
impossible to the apocalyptic and over 6,000 children a
month - the equivalent population of a small Irish
town - die of embargo-related causes.
Seventy per cent of virtually everything was
imported. With the imposition of the embargo,
Iraq faced decimation.
Formerly a largely developed country, with free
access to high quality health care, 93 per cent
access to clean water and an exemplary free
educational system (according to 1989 World
Health Organisation figures), the infrastructure
has collapsed. With it, health, education, and the
right to life enshrined in the most signed-up-to UN
Charter in history, guaranteeing protection and succour
for the world's children. It lies in the dust.
Iraq's children are in the UN front line.
Basra, Iraq's ancient southern city, where the
biblical Tigris and Euphrates shimmeringly meet
at the Shatt Al Arab, perhaps encapsulates Iraq's
plight. At the paediatric and maternity
hospital, former flagship institution, one of the finest
centres in the Middle East, the air conditioning no longer
works in temperatures of up to 140 Fahrenheit,
there is not hot water, the elevators are broken
and the smell of blood overwhelms disinfectant is
vetoed by the UN Sanctions Committee. One third of all
live births now are of premature weight, due to
malnutrition. In the hospital, where lack of
facilities include working incubators, no premature weight
baby has survived since 1994.
Reality is stark, and shaming. In June last
year, in the premature unit, lay 17 perfect, tiny mites,
including twins. The doctor was deciding which
would have the only working oxygen cylinder
(central oxygen long collapsed.) A doctor asked
frantically if I or the photographer with whom I
work, had a certain blood type - a baby needed
an exchange transfusion. The blood bank no longer
existed, they could not locate a donor. ``Test
us,'' we responded. But the laboratory facilities had
Since Basra's electricity system died years ago
such facilities would be meaningless anyway.
Refrigeration is a memory in one of the hottest
countries on earth.
When I returned in October, every child I had
seen in June had died. Basra has a chilling legacy: a
ten-fold cancer epidemic linked to the depleted
uranium (DU) weapons used in the Gulf war. DU is
a radioactive waste, given free by the nuclear
industry to the arms industry.
As coating or core for bullets and missiles, it
is an effective armour piercing aid. The residual
dust, generated on impact, has been linked to Gulf war
syndrome, and to Iraq's spiralling cancers and
birth deformities.
In Iraq, the water table, flora, fauna, say
experts, are DU contaminated. Basra's birth deformities
mirror the Pacific islands after the nuclear
tests of the 1950s. Babies are born with no eyes, no
brain, no limbs, foreshortened limbs, heartbreakingly
twisted little limbs, internal organs on the
Professor Doug Rokke, a radiation expert who
advises the Pentagon and devised the DU clean up
for Kuwait, surveyed Basra for radiation. He
told the Sunday Independent: ``I can sum up for you
what I found there in three words: `Oh my

Iraq has repeatedly requested international
expertise to assist in a clean up, but has been refused.
Iraq is a poisoned land whose children are dying, not
with a bang, but with a whimper.
Meanwhile, the forgotten war continues. Almost
daily, US and UK planes bomb the ``safe havens''
in and around Basra in the south, and Mosul in
the north.
An exhausted physician remarked: ``I can now
cope with operating without anaesthetic, with
patients dying for want of medication. I cannot
cope with the bombings. I swear to you I hear the cry
of every child, in every house, in every street in
the neighbourhood.''
CONTACTS: Action from Ireland: 01 4968594
and Ireland Campaign to end Sanctions: 087 6
8888 53
Journalist Felicity Arbuthnot has visited Iraq
22 times since the Gulf war, and was Iraq
researcher for John Pilger's award nominated film, Paying
the Price - Killing the Children of Iraq, shown
earlier this year. She has been nominated for the
Lorenzo Natali Award for Human Rights Journalism and the
Millennium Peace Prize for Women

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