Charity blames invaders for Iraq ‘health disaster’

The US-led war in Iraq has created a healthcare disaster in a country where 20 years of war, mismanagement and sanctions had already left public health in a fragile state, a UK-based medical charity said today.

Medact reported that the health of Iraq’s people had deteriorated since the 2003 invasion, both as a direct result of violence and through the collapse of medical facilities, public health provision and essential infrastructure such as water supplies. The report specifically blamed the tactics of the US-led occupying forces for exacerbating the country’s health problems, particularly the decision to sideline the UN, which has traditionally handled humanitarian relief efforts.

Medact cited a nationwide survey of nearly 1,000 Iraqi households, published in the Lancet, as evidence that the war had caused around 100,000 deaths since the US and British invasion in April 2003.

“Violence accounted for most of these deaths, particularly air strikes by coalition forces. More than half of those reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children,” the Medact report said.

It called for a re-evaluation of the weaponry used by coalition forces in populated areas, given the high rate of civilian casualties.

The risk of death from violence in the 18 months after the invasion was 58 times higher than in the 15 months before it, the report said, while the risk of death from all causes was 2.5 times higher after the invasion than before. The effects of the war left Iraqi society less able to respond to the public health crisis created by the 2003 invasion.

Medact said Iraq had also experienced an alarming recurrence of previously well-controlled communicable diseases, including acute respiratory infections, diarrhoea and typhoid, particularly among children, the report said.

One in four people in Iraq were now dependent on food aid, and there were more children underweight or chronically malnourished than in 2000, the report found. The near disappearance of immunisation programmes had contributed to the recurrence of death and illness from preventable disease, and infant mortality rose due to a lack of access to skilled help in childbirth, as well as to violence.
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