Preliminary note by CASI: These press notes were obtained in response to a query by International Educational Development Inc. (IED), who are working on the issues of sanctions and depleted uranium (DU) at the UN Commission on Human Rights. IED are seeking help in collating the latest scientific evidence about DU for the study called for by the UN Subcommission for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights; for further information, please contact Philippa Winkler.

Notes for the Press Briefing on the latest WHO Mission to Iraq
14 September 2001

Mr. Neel Mani, Director, World Health Organization (WHO) Programme on Iraq made some remarks prior to the question and answer part of the briefing. His points are as follows:

In April 2001, Iraqi health officials and scientists were invited to WHO, Geneva to discuss with WHO technical staff the scientific and public health base for suspected increases in various forms of cancer, congenital malformations and renal diseases;

These discussions culminated in a framework agreement between WHO and Iraq and set the scene for establishing specific projects that explore the areas of expressed concern;

At the end of August 2001, WHO despatched a six-member technical mission to Baghdad whose objective was to explore with the Iraqi colleagues details for such projects;

These discussions, carried out in an atmosphere of full collaboration and cooperation, culminated in four project proposals suggested by the Iraqi health officials:

- health surveillance of cancers

- health surveillance of congenital malformations and renal diseases

- studies to explore health effects of environmental risk factors, including depleted uranium

- implementation plan for cancer control

WHO staff are now working on the technical details and costing for these projects and expect to send them back to the Iraqi health authorities by this weekend for their review;

Funding is identified by both parties as being a major issue that needs to be carefully considered after completion of the detailed project proposals.

Funding will be sought, on the initiative of Iraq, to supplement the resources available from WHO's regular budget allocated to the ongoing programme of cooperation between WHO and Iraq. WHO will make every effort to facilitate the mobilization of the resources required to undertake the implementation of the activities agreed upon;

It must be emphasized that:

- these actions are part of a continuing effort from WHO to collaborate with the Government of Iraq to support the improvement of the public health situation in Iraq

- WHO, along with any other appropriate international partners, will concentrate on establishing reliable and transparent scientific bases for the implementation of these projects;

It is expected that the implementation of the various projects may, once begun, cover a period of about 18 months, although some studies may take longer.

Update by a WHO spokesperson on 7 December: "we expect that the health surveillance of congenital malformations and renal diseases project proposal will be sent off to Iraq shortly. As external experts were involved, it took a bit longer than the other three to elaborate. (The other three project proposals have been sent to Iraq.)"