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Message from Milan Rai Baghdad 9/10 December 2001 Greetings to everyone from Baghdad. I started writing this as the sun set over the Tigris - and the people of Baghdad prepare to break their fasts - after two very full days of activity. On Saturday we visited two hospitals, the Al Mansour Teaching Hospital and the Saddam Paediatric Hospital. I’ve visited these hospitals four times now – in February and August 1998, and in January this year, and now during Ramadan. Over that time I’ve seen many changes – corridors which were once dark and forbidding are now well-lit, lifts which did not work in February 1998 are now functioning – mostly. In the courtyard of the Saddam Paediatric Hospital, there are now a dozen giant boxes from the Otis Elevator company. The Intensive Care Unit at the same hospital shocked Andrea Needham when we visited in August 1998 because of its complete lack of monitoring equipment – in fact, it lacked any technological support for its patients apart from saline drips (Andrea is a trained nurse). Now the Intensive Care Unit is closed – because it is undergoing restoration work. Throughout the city we can see signs of change. Shiny new red double-decker buses from China offer public transport around Baghdad for less than 2p a ride. The Windscreen Index of Prosperity appears to indicate some kind of sea-change: where almost all windscreens in Baghdad were fractured and starred in February 1998, now most windscreens are clear and new. But despite the sporadic building work, and the huge influx of neon lighting, and the new goods in re-opened shops, most of Baghdad is still worn-out and tired. And Baghdad is not Iraq. People who have traveled outside Baghdad in recent weeks tell us that rural areas are not enjoying improved conditions or the first shoots of recovery we see in the capital. And even here in Baghdad, despite the new equipment and the renovation and the new lifts, there are still malnourished children in the children’s hospitals. I was shocked to discover that there is still marasmus in Iraq. Two days ago Dr Saad Mahdi Hassani introduced me to four-month-old Saja Mustafa in the Al-Mansour Teaching Hospital. Saja’s wasted body reminded me of Zahra, the first child I ever met in Iraq, in February 1998. Dr Hassani told me that Saja weighs 4 kilograms - a child of this age should weigh about 6 kilograms. Saja has recurrent diarrhoea - she was admitted two weeks earlier for a short admission. Her father was a teacher but left his position to take up a better job, as a builder. Where he might have been earning 12,000 Iraqi Dinar a month, he is now earning between 2000 and 4000 Iraqi Dinar a day – when he has work. One Iraqi Dinar used to be worth two pounds. Now it is worth less than 0.1p. One pound is worth 3000 Iraqi Dinar. So Saja’s father used to earn 4 pounds a month as a teacher, and now earns around a pound a day, as a builder. The economic sanctions have created mass poverty. Saja is not responding to treatment. Last November, I asked a UN officer within the oil-for-food programme in New York why child malnutrition in Iraq had not improved, despite the billions of dollars of purchases within the oil-for-food humanitarian programme. He had a two word answer: “dirty water”. The deep scars of mass poverty and a damaged infrastructure continue to blight the lives of Iraq’s children. During this year, Baghdad has seen considerable change, but the beautiful children we have seen in the city’s hospitals continue to suffer. I finish this message in the murk of a foggy Baghdad morning. We cannot see the sun. Milan Rai voices in the wilderness uk -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email email@example.com CASI's website - www.casi.org.uk - includes an archive of all postings.