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[casi] Dominion article.

The editor saw fit to add into this the opinions of the US, UK and NZ
governments, but had the grace to give me the last word!

The Dominion
May 15, 2002.

  CHOLERA was virtually
unheard of in Iraq before the Gulf War, now it is commonplace - as
Wellington man Tony Maturin found out first-hand.
  Mr Maturin visited Iraq with an international delegation of 120
this month to witness the effect of economic sanctions imposed on Iraq
after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent Gulf War.
  Three days into the two-week trip he contracted cholera, probably as
result of consuming contaminated water or food.  Mr Maturin was lucky:
 even though the illness knocked him around pretty badly, he could
return home to New Zealand where medical care and medicine, clean
drinking water and sanitary conditions saw him recover.
  Thousands of Iraqis are not so fortunate.  There were no cases of
in Iraq in 1989, last year there were about 20,000 cases - and many
tens of thousands of people have died from drinking contaminated water
  Clean water supply is just one of many vital human needs denied to
people as a result of the sanctions, Mr Maturin says.
  He says United States-led bombing of Iraq destroyed almost all vital
services: water, sewerage, roads, communications, food supply,
electricity, industry, hospitals and schools, and the effect of
sanctions in the following decade have been just as devastating.
  The UN and other agencies have put the death toll resulting from
on Iraq and sanctions at 1.5 million people.
  In 1989 7110 children under five - the group most vulnerable to
- died of respiratory infection, diarrhoea, gastro-enteritis and
malnutrition - by 1999 that figure had risen to 73,572, a more than
tenfold increase.
  The number of underweight births has increased five-fold in the last
decade to one in four.
  Nutrition-related illnesses, malnutrition, infectious diseases,
tuberculosis, cancers and polio have also skyrocketed.
  Illnesses which had high survival rates before the sanctions now
  have high
fatality rates without treatment and medication, and through the
cumulative effect of the sanctions on the physical well-being of
  Decaying hospitals with limited electricity, equipment, medicines,
antiseptics, anaesthetics, ambulances and dressings lose patients who
they could easily save under normal conditions, Mr Maturin says.
  Major surgical operations have fallen 75 per cent from 15,125 a
  month in
1989 to just 3823 by November 1999.  Before the sanctions Iraq had
"top-notch" health and education systems comparable to New Zealand's,
but the health system there is now in desperate need, Mr Maturin says.
  He visited the Saddam Hussein Children's Hospital in Baghdad, and
describes it as "a terrible place".  The lifts did not work, many
areas were unlit, the electrical fittings stripped to be used
elsewhere.  He saw some incubators, but medical supplies and equipment
were very sparse and in many cases unobtainable, staff told him.
  Many children there were tiny and malformed as a result of
and high anaemia rates among mothers - about 60 per cent.
  "A child died while we were there, about four or five years old.  I
this piercing scream coming down the corridor, and it was a woman who
had just been told that her child had died and she laid down on the
bed and fainted.  It was the usual:  malnutrition and gastro-enteritis
and lack of medicine.  The doctor said he saw 10 or 20 or 30 such
cases a week and it was the same all over Iraq."
  Despite the desperate situation, the doctors made determined efforts
improvise and do what they could, Mr Maturin says.
  "The conditions were absolutely terrible and unacceptable, but they
not going to be beaten by it.  It was like that everywhere:  there was
a tremendous sense of pride and national identity, and belonging to an
an ancient culture and they were tremendously proud of that."
  Mr Maturin also visited the Basrah Children's Hospital in the south
Iraq, where conditions were even worse - about 40 per cent of the
water was contaminated with sewage, and death and cancer rates were
  "I saw one little boy who had a brain tumour that caused one eye to
one eye of gross diameter, and his shoulder was swollen to about four
times its natural size becuse of leukaemia.  He had come to the
hospital but there was no treatment for him, they could not give him
chemotherapy because there was none.
  "The doctor said the other children were all the same, and would die
  in a
few months but they couldn't do anything about it.  And that's the
ongoing story you hear over and over again."
  A food rationing system delivers food containing 1100 calories a day
every person in Iraq - in 1989 daily calory intake averaged 3400.
  "The diet is horrendous, there is no animal protein like eggs or
  meat in
the food baskets, no fruit or vegetables, it's very basic:  rice,
lentils, cooking oil, tea, sugar, salt and that's about it."
  The Oil for Food programme is not doing enough to stop the poverty,
malnutrition and deaths which the sanctions are causing, Mr Maturin
  He says Iraq needs cash so it can pay people in crucial positions
doctors and teachers, rebuild basic services, and import, produce and
distribute food.
  Mr Maturin says there is no doubt the Ba'ath regime is repressive,
  but he
says the Iraqi Government has been demonised by the US media and given
little credit for doing a  tremedous job in rebuilding following the
almost total destruction wrought by the attacks, and in distributing
  Mr Maturin says his commitment to pushing to have sanctions lifted
driven by "a general abhorrence of bullying" and as a Quaker he is
part of a long tradition of involvement in peace and justice issues.
  The visit was shocking, the experience had some delegates in tears.
Mr Maturin says that despite this he felt heartened by the strength of
will of the Iraqi people.
  "Everyone in Iraq knows the word "welcome" and we heard it
Their hopsitality was tremendous.  There is a real will to survive."
  He is writing a report on the trip for Disarmament Minister Matt
will also report to the Foreign Affairs Ministry and is seeking to
raise awareness of the plight of the Iraqi people.  The average New
Zealander has little idea - if they did they would be horrified, Mr
Maturin says.
  He says the New Zealand Government, and other Western countries,
  must take
a stand against sanctions.  We took a stand on the nuclear issue, and
we should do it again on sanctions, he says.
  "The New Zealand Government should stop pussyfooting around and
  stand up
to the UN and say these sanctions are terrible, a disgrace, and they
should be lifted."
  The US and its coalition partners should also pay reparation for the
damage inflicted on Iraq, he believes, though he does not expect this
will happen.
  Whatever the rights or wrongs of the Iraqi Government, sanctions are
punishing innocent civilians - and poor civilians are suffering
disproportionately - and using them as a political tool.
  Weapons inspections, and the threat of weapons of mass destruction,
not the real issues, Mr Maturin says.
  "This is all about control of the second largest oil rservoirs in
world and US power".
  The New Zealand Government's policy is support for "smart sanctions"
targeting Iraq's political and military elite (such as freezing
foreign bank accounts and arresting Iraqi leaders when they travel
overseas) rather than the existing wide-ranging sanctions.
  Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff has said existing sanctions allow
Saddam Hussein to build palaces while ordinary Iraqis starve, and has
said he feels the same way about Iraqi children dying as he felt when
militias were killing people in East Timor, and the West had to be
persuaded to intervene.
  Smart sanctions do not go far enough, and nothing short of complete
lifting of sanctions will alleviate the Iraqis' plight, Mr Maturin
  "While we support the sanctions, we are at least partly responsible
what is happening.  Children are dying and we are responsible."
> Helen Bain
> Feature Writer
> The Dominion
> Wellington Newspapers Limited
> Publishers of The Dominion, The Evening Post, Contact and NZ
> InfoTech Weekly Level 5, 40 Boulcott Street P O Box 1297,
> Wellington, New Zealand
> Ph (04) 4740 138
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