Saturday, April 15, 2006

Evidence that Dr. Jemison is Correct

April 12, 2006

Dear President Bush,

I wrote to you last September to inform you of the greatest threat to health facing the world today. Dr. Mae Jemison, physician and astronaut, shared the dirty secret at the National Association of Community Health Centers’ annual gathering in Miami Beach. Do you recall the threat?

No, it was not natural disasters, despite Hurricane Katrina’s recent strike and Hurricane Rita’s rapid strengthening as it approached South Florida.

No, it was not a flu pandemic despite world wide concern that the H5-N1 virus will evolve into a form easily passed between humans.

The answer is war, internal conflict and strife. The direct impacts from violence include death and disabilities. The indirect impacts kill far greater according the renowned physician. Access to safe water, sanitation, food, medicines, and specialized health care becomes limited, if available at all. The April 11th news from Reuters supports her assertions.

Many doctors in the area say that the local health situation has deteriorated markedly since the US-led invasion of the country in 2003. "The mortality of children in Basra has increased by nearly 30 percent compared to the Saddam Hussein era," Dr Haydar Salah, a pediatrician at the Basra Children's Hospital, pointed out. "Children are dying daily, and no one is doing anything to help them."

As a result of water-borne diseases and a lack of medical supplies, infants born in the southern city of Basra are subject to abnormally high mortality rates, say officials of an international NGO devoted to child health issues.

"For weeks, there were no I.V. fluids available in the hospitals of Basra," said Marie Fernandez, spokeswoman for European aid agency Saving Children from War. "As a consequence, many children, mainly under five-years old, died after suffering from extreme cases of diarrhea."

Fernandez went on to cite a number of problems facing local hospitals in Basra, which is located some 550km south of the capital, Baghdad. "Hospitals have no ventilators to help prematurely-born babies breathe," Fernandez said. "And there are very few nurses available, so hospitals often must allow family members to care for patients."

Just the day before Reuters ran this piece.

Doctors in Anbar governorate, particularly those in the city of Ramadi some 100km west of the capital, are urging the government to tackle the issue of the lack of medicines and essential surgical materials available in local hospitals.

"Most of our patients are being sent to the capital because we don't have enough supplies to proceed with surgical operations," complained Dr Ala'a Rabia'a of the Ramadi General Hospital.

According to Rabia'a, hospitals in neighboring cities too, including Fallujah and al-Qaim, are suffering similar shortages. "We have enough staff to help patients, but this is useless since we don't have enough material," Rabia'a explained. "We need supplies urgently to meet the needs of all hospitals and clinics in the area."

The doctor went on to explain that Ramadi General Hospital was particularly in need of emergency materials such as syringes, pain killers, plasters, antibiotics and anesthetics. "Local NGOs sometimes send us supplies, but most of them aren't appropriate to our needs," Rabia'a stressed.

Last week, a convoy laden with medicines and surgical materials, sent to Ramadi by a local NGO, was ambushed en route from the capital. All medical supplies were reportedly stolen.

Incidents of theft like these, says Rabia'a, only serve to aggravate an already desperate situation. "People are sick, especially from the bad potable water in the area," he said. "Many have cases of diarrhea and there are no drugs for it. Urgent measures must be taken."

“We broke it, we fix it” said Colin Powell prior to the invasion. The Iraqi people live the predictable consequences of that breaking daily. What did you say the other day about killing innocent women and children? Does that include those responsible for a 30% increase in infant mortality? If so, look in the mirror.

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