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[casi] "Children are the real victims"

Dear List Members,

The media's focus of attention is the war action, but the
casualties of this action are conveniently ignored. The
attached article, discussing the plight of the children,
appeared in the Star (Malaysia).

Iraqi children, already traumatized in 12 years of war,
are now traumatized again with a vengeance. They want
the bombing to stop. But more bombing - killing, maiming,
and traumatizing is to come.

This is the reality of Mr. Blair's "humanitarian act"

Presumably Mr. Blair, who has children of his own, never
contemplates this reality. Nor do other war proponents, I
expect. How else could they live with themselves.

UN agencies vainly "keep appealing to combatants to
give special protection to the children". This appeal
might benefit the UN's collective conscience, but not the
children. - Children live with parents or other adults,
and there are simply no child-proof missiles.

Elga S.


Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Children are the real victims

By P.K. Katharason and Shahanaaz Habib

AMMAN: Daily at media briefings here, international relief
agencies are expressing growing concern for the welfare of
Iraqi children caught in the current war.

"You can see the fear in their faces," Unicef aid workers
who recently sent food and blankets to about 900 orphaned
and disadvantaged children in four centres at Kerbala to
the southwest of Baghdad reported three days ago.

They said the children met at the centres were very
disturbed by what was happening around them. When asked
what they wanted, the children asked for the bombings to
stop, they added.

Faces of children lying in blood and bandages with injured
civilians in Baghdad hospitals are seen daily on Iraqi and
Arabic broadcasts countering TV channels portraying the
war as another high-tech video game of fireballs and

As fierce fighting goes on in various parts of Iraq,
anxious co-ordinating staff of United Nations agencies and
the International Committee of Red Crescent, in touch with
their ground staff, keep appealing to combatants to give
special protection to the children who make up almost half
of Iraq's 24 million people.

Because of more than a decade of economic sanctions, one
out of eight Iraqi children has died before the age of
five, one third of them were malnourished, one quarter
were born underweight and another quarter lacked health
facilities and safe drinking water.

In the aftermath of the Gulf War in 1991 alone, more than
50,000 child deaths were reported due to malnutrition and
infectious diseases ranging from cholera, typhoid to

Unicef spokesman Geoffrey Keele said that the agency staff
were assessing the situation facing the Iraqi children who
have stopped going to school since the first day of the

Putting the casualty count on Sunday at 100, including
children and women, Muin Kassis who is the communications
head of ICRC in Amman, said the needs of the hospitals and
the injured people were being assessed.

"We cannot say under what circumstances they were
wounded," he said in explaining that his staff had been
able to move around in Baghdad and Irbil but had some
difficulty in Basra because of the fighting going on

According to him, they were helping to restore water
supply to Basra's 1.2 million people after it was cut off
due to a damaged power station and distributing relief
materials to homeless people.

Already badly traumatised, the relief agency workers said,
the fearful and depressed children were now at grave risk
of further starvation, disease, death and psychological
trauma in the days to come once their three-week
government food rations run dry.

The aid agencies said there was no guarantee that smart
bombs will always be smart although American and British
forces have so far tried to be cautious in avoiding
civilian casualties.

They admit that it will be impossible at this moment to
predict the nature of the next stage of the Iraqi war or
the number of expected civilian deaths and injuries.

But they stand by their view that casualties among
children will be in the thousands, probably tens of
thousands and possibly in the hundreds of thousands if
there is no quick end to the war.

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