NEWS

Three out of every ten Iraqi children are malnourished

Three out of 10 children in Iraq suffer from serious malnutrition and infant mortality has risen 134 percent since the Gulf War, mainly due to diarrhea because of poor hygiene and simple respiratory infections, while eight in 10 Iraqis survive on state rations, a system that will break down as soon as a war begins, according to members from the Greek branch of the humanitarian organization Doctors of the World, who have just returned from a week in Baghdad. The four-member medical team visited hospitals and neighborhoods. «The situation is peculiar in that there is absolute calm; nothing indicates an imminent crisis,» said the organization’s general secretary, Nikitas Kanakis, who headed the mission. «I had the feeling that the war appears to be a secondary issue compared to the daily problems of survival that people are dealing with,» he added. In Baghdad, because of the destruction caused by war and the long years of the trade embargo, people are dying from malnutrition and disease. «If a war begins, there will be a disaster. The larger hospitals do not have resources for longer than a week. There is a major shortage of many special medicines, such as cancer drugs, which cannot be imported because of the embargo, and there has been an increase in the incidence of cancers. Three out of four child deaths are from diarrhea due to poor hygiene, as there is no clean water.» The entire country is suffering food shortages. About 1 million children in Iraq are malnourished, and 16 million people are surviving on state rations. «In the north, which is under UN control, conditions are far better,» he said. Doctors of the World are to adopt Baghdad’s children’s hospital, as well as a few regional medical centers for the purpose of supplying them with medicines throughout a war. The organization already has three missions at Iraq’s borders with Jordan, Syria and Iran, in order to care for refugees, and in the next few days another mission leaves for Iraq. They are also setting up food centers for the inhabitants with humanitarian aid in the form of food from Greece.