Infant mortality in Iraq soars
as young pay the price for war
by Andrew Buncombe
BBC Online, May 8, 2007
Two wars and a decade of sanctions have
led to a huge rise in the mortality rate among young children
in Iraq, leaving statistics that were once the envy of the Arab
world now comparable with those of sub-Saharan Africa.
A new report shows that in the years since
1990, Iraq has seen its child mortality rate soar by 125 per cent,
the highest increase of any country in the world. Its rate of
deaths of children under five now matches that of Mauritania.
Jeff MacAskey, head of health for the
Save the Children charity, which published the report, said: "Iraq,
Botswana and Zimbabwe all have different reasons for making the
least amount of progress on child mortality. Whether it's the
impact of war, HIV/Aids or poverty the consequences are equally
devastating. Yet other countries such as Malawi and Nepal have
shown that despite conflict and poverty child mortality rates
can be reversed."
Figures collated by the charity show that
in 1990 Iraq's mortality rate for under-fives was 50 per 1,000
live births. In 2005 it was 125. While many other countries have
higher rates - Angola, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of
Congo, for instance, all have rates above 200 - the increase in
Iraq is higher than elsewhere.
Egypt, Indonesia and Bangladesh have made
the most progress in tackling child mortality, while Iraq, Botswana
and Zimbawe have regressed the most.
Sanctions against Saddam Hussein's regime
were imposed by the UN in 1990 after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait
and remained in place until after the coalition invasion in 2003.
The sanctions, encouraged by the US as a means to topple Saddam,
were some of the most comprehensive ever put in place and had
a devastating effect on Iraq's infrastructure and health services.
Precisely how many children died because
of sanctions is unknown but a report in 1999 from the United Nations
Children's Fund (Unicef), suggested that between 1991 and 1998
an additional 500,000 died.
Denis Halliday, who resigned as the UN's
humanitarian coordinator in protest at the sanctions, said at
the time: "We are in the process of destroying an entire
society. It is as simple and terrifying as that. It is illegal
Kathy Kelly, an anti-war campaigner with
Voices in the Wilderness, said last night: "The punishment
of children through the economic and military war against Iraq
has been the greatest scandal."
Save the Children's report, State of the
World's Mothers 2007, found the majority of child deaths occur
in just 10 countries - either those with large populations such
as India and China, or those with sparse health services such
as Afghanistan and Angola. Aids remains one the central factors
affecting mortality rates.
"More than 10 million children under
age five still die each year. That's almost 28,000 a day, almost
all in developing countries," said the charity's US president,
Charles MacCormack. "Vaccines, oral rehydration therapy and
insecticide-treated mosquito nets are not expensive. Yet, sadly,
many mothers and children lack access to these life-saving measures."
The 10 worst countries
Nine of the 10 countries with the worst
infant mortality rates are in sub-Saharan Africa. The other one
is Afghanistan, which has the second-worst rate.
1. Sierra Leone: 282 (per 1,000 live births)
2. Afghanistan: 257
3. Niger: 256
4. Liberia: 235
5. Somalia: 225
6. Mali: 218
7. Chad: 208
8. Democratic Republic of Congo: 205
9. Equatorial Guinea: 205
10. Rwanda: 203
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