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[casi] AIDS and SARS: Iraq is facing two deadly threats

Iraq is facing two deadly threats : AIDS and SARS

 Monday, June 23 2003 @ 09:01 AM Eastern Daylight Time

BAGHDAD, June 22 - With open uncontrolled borders and lack of medical tests
to foreigners crossing into, the war-torn Iraq is facing two deadly threats,
namely AIDS and SARS.

“Iraq was purely clean and devoid of AIDS, with an exhaustive testing
program in special centers on the borders that were meant to ban anyone
contracted with the disease in,” Eissa Abdel-Nour, of the Health Protection
Department, told on Sunday, June 22.

Only 78 AIDS-infected cases were registered among the 25 million population
of the country, amid tight restrictions and tough measures.

But after the U.S. and British forces rolled into on April 9, triggering
large scenes of chaos and anarchy in the country, health turned down the
trajectory amid absent supervision and widespread looting and thievery that
extended even to hospitals.

“The threatening danger of epidemic diseases came from women servants coming
from South Asia to Iraq by dubious offices run by Israeli parties,” said an
official source to IOL on condition of anonymity.

“These offices seek to open brothels in the country disguised under
different names and for goals far beyond just sending female servants here,”
the source said.

The Iraqi official added that the poor security and health situation gave
free hands for foreigners to “come in and out any time, and without the
supervision of anyone.”


With such lamentable snapshots, the AIDS is much deemed by health experts in
as a genuine danger beyond control in Iraq.

“AIDS disease is now much larger than to be contained for two main reasons;
the unavailability of vaccines or treatments and the shortage of aid to
medical cadres,” said Dr. Taha Al-Qaderi, a staffer of the Health Protection

Qaderi, who had worked in the Iraq-Iran borderline medical centre, lamented
that spread of SARS (Syndrome for Acute Respiratory Disease) remains a
possibility given the current deteriorating situation featured by
lawlessness and anarchy.

“We could not assure the country is free of the SARS, as we have no
information as to who comes in and leaves out.”

Further to the bleak picture, Cholera outbreak was already witnessed in the
capital Baghdad and other areas as Najaf, Basra and Al-Emara.

Cholera is ranked alongside the plague and smallpox as one of the most
fearsome diseases.

“What really does matter is the occupying authorities not taking enough
action to fight this acute diarrheal disease,” said Qaderi, adding that
stocks of drugs ran low on demands of hospitals in southern areas.

Many Iraqis are resentful at the U.S. occupation, now in its third month,
arguing that the situation is much worse since the U.S. and British forces
trundled into and acted in disregard to problems plaguing the Iraqis.

“The aide to U.S. Civil Administrator Paul Bremer had promised us urgent aid
to all hospitals three weeks ago,” said Qaderi.

But none of the promises have turned into reality so far, Qaderi said in a
purple face.

With the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime following the invasion, many Iraqi
hospitals have been badly looted, and are also overburdened by the number of

Meanwhile, the nation is suffering from impure water supplies, uncollected
garbage and a lack of electricity.

Corpses Still Littered

The Iraqis also brace for a fresh tragedy, corpses which had not been buried
since the end of the aggression.

In Al-Adli medical center, some 80 corpses decayed absolutely and the stench
of death drifted away in the vicinity that IOL reporter - even masked - did
not even managed to take photos.

“We could not get rid of them, as dozens of families step into here every
day in search for their relatives,” said Eidan Nuri, a worker at the center.

As if this tragedy is not enough, continued power cuts leave more problems
even to neighbors.

“We could not stand this foul odor, especially that children used to play
not so far, said the sad-faced Haytham Sobhy.

But children have enough to suffer from since the end of the U.S.-British
aggression on their oil-rich country.

Hospitals, due to the sharp lack in medical care and medicine, became no
more than a place for children to die. Doctors also are unpaid and

In a report by the United Nations children's fund (UNICEF) published in June
8, the number of children who suffer from diarrhea, Iraq's number one killer
of infants, has more than doubled over this time last year.

While the ailment "may sound trivial, in Iraq it kills," said the agency's
spokesman, Geoffrey Keele, noting that 70 percent of child deaths before the
war were the result of diarrhea or respiratory infections.

He said cholera, whose symptoms include heavy diarrhea leading to
dehydration and possible death in children, was also on the rise with 66
confirmed cases in Basra, southern Iraq.

Other diseases such as dysentery and typhoid, also spread through
contaminated water and food, are "becoming a real problem for children,"
Keele said.

The deterioration has affected all branches of the health care system.
Health care institutions and hospitals that were once well equipped, well
supplied and easily accessed by patients, have now become overcrowded,
unhygienic and foul smelling.

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