Iraqi increase in birth defects greater than Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors
At Fallujah hospital in Iraq they cannot offer any statistics on children born with birth defects – there are just too many. Parents don’t want to talk. “Families bury their newborn babies after they die without telling anyone,” says hospital spokesman Nadim al-Hadidi. “It’s all too shameful for them.”
“We recorded 672 cases in January but we know there were many more,” says Hadidi. He projects pictures on to a wall at his office: children born with no brain, no eyes, or with the intestines out of their body.
Facing a frozen image of a child born without limbs, Hadidi says parents’ feelings usually range between shame and guilt. “They think it’s their fault, that there’s something wrong with them. And it doesn’t help at all when some elder tells them it’s been ‘god’s punishment’.”
“In 2004 the Americans tested all kinds of chemicals and explosive devices on us: thermobaric weapons, white phosphorous, depleted uranium…we have all been laboratory mice for them,” says Hadidi.
Abdulkadir Alrawi, a doctor at Fallujah hospital, is just back from examining an intriguing new case. “This girl was born with the Dandy Walker syndrome. Her brain is split in two and I doubt she’ll survive.” As he speaks, the lights go off again in the whole hospital. “We lack the most basic infrastructure, how do they want us to cope with an emergency like this?”
A study by the University of Baghdad pointed out that cases of birth defects had increased tenfold in [another Iraqi city] Basra two years before the invasion in 2003. The trend is still on the rise.
According to a study released by the Switzerland-based International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in July 2010, “the increases in cancer, leukemia and infant mortality and perturbations of the normal human population birth sex ratio in Fallujah are significantly greater than those reported for the survivors of the A-Bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.”
Researchers found there had been a 38-fold increase in leukemia (17-fold in the Japanese locations). Samira Alaani, chief doctor at Fallujah hospital, took part in a study in close collaboration with the World Health Organization. Several tests conducted in London point to unusually large amounts of uranium and mercury in the hair root of those affected. That could be the evidence linking the use of prohibited weapons to the extent of congenital problems in Fallujah.
Other than the white phosphorus, many point to depleted uranium (DU), a radioactive element which, according to military engineers, significantly increases the penetration capacity of shells. DU is believed to have a life of 4.5 billion years, and it has been labelled the “silent murderer that never stops killing.” Several international organisations have called on NATO to investigate whether DU was also used during the Libyan war.