January 28-30, 2000
volume 11, no. 20
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Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

Chilling Statistics on Rise in Infant Mortality

    BAGHDAD, JAN 27 (ZENIT).- The nine-year U.N. embargo of Iraq and the constant U.S./British bombing attacks are taking their toll on the weakest citizens of this nation. "This is a killing of innocents -- a tragedy that affects the whole world," stated the Catholic Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans.

    Patriarch Raphael I Bidawid, whose Episcopal See is based in Baghdad, was commenting to "Fides" on data recently disclosed by Iraq's Ministry of Health, comparing infant mortality in December 1989 (just eight months before the imposition of the embargo) with that of December 1999. According to the report, 8,000 children died last month in Iraq. Lack of medicines and food is taking an enormous toll not only among children, but also among the elderly.

    The increase in the rate of mortality over the last decade is startling. In 1989, 101 children younger than 5 died of dysentery. Ten years later, the figure rose to 1,576. Children younger than 5 dying from lack of food numbered 81 in 1989, as compared to 3,060 in 1999. Deaths among children from pneumonia and other respiratory infections increased from 117 in 1989 to 3,372 in 1999.

    In a December 16 speech, Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan, a practicing Catholic, presented much the same data. He cited a first-hand report last year in the "New York Times." "The reporter led readers through a day with the chief resident at the central teaching hospital for pediatrics in Baghdad. Iraq, the doctor told his visitor, was once the most advanced country in the Arab world for science and medicine. Now, Iraq's doctors cannot even read medical journals; because medical journals are embargoed."

    Buchanan noted that childhood leukemia is almost always fatal in today's Iraq, while it has a 70% cure rate in the U.S. Even the most basic supplies are withheld in the name of the embargo. "Disposable syringes must be used over and over again. Their importation has been blocked out of fear that medical syringes will be used to create anthrax spores. Ancient X-ray machines leak radiation. Chlorine, a vital water disinfectant, all the more necessary because Iraq's sewage treatment plants were bombed in Desert Storm, is embargoed, lest it be diverted into chlorine gas. Even the plastic bags needed for blood transfusions are restricted."

    Before he left the country in protest, U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator Denis Halliday estimated the death rate of Iraqi children at 60,000 per year, with a total of 500,000 since the start of the embargo. Buchanan noted that "if his figures are correct, more Iraqi children have been lost in nine years to U.S. sanctions than all the American soldiers killed in combat in all the wars of the 20th century."

    The Vatican Ambassador to the Holy See today released a report revealing the current death toll: "Since the imposition of sanctions in August 1990, 1,215,787 people, mostly children and old people, had died of sanctions-related causes."

    In 1989 adults older than 50 who died of hypertension numbered 91, but in December of 1999 this figure jumped to 594. Deaths from diabetes increased from 82 to 831, and from cancer, from 347 to 1,913.

    Patriarch Bidawid said the "data of the Ministry of Health was substantially confirmed by the investigation of United Nations' commissioners who visit our hospitals. These deaths are the clearest proof that should move the world to do something against the embargo."

    Patriarch Bidawid also commented on the Holy Father's much desired pilgrimage to Ur of the Chaldeans, Abraham's birthplace. "I continue to hope. The visit has been postponed until further notice, but I think that the prayers of the whole world and the Holy Father's desire cannot remain frustrated." ZE00012702


January 28, 2000
volume 11, no. 20

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