Iraq headed for health disaster

Wednesday, April 24, 1991

NEW YORK — "Media reports on the destruction of Iraq caused by US and allied bombing do not begin to describe the cruel reality that these bombings have imposed on the people." This is the assessment of eyewitness investigators from the Commission of Inquiry for the International War Crimes Tribunal.

Two commission staff members — Gavrielle Gemma and Adeeb Abed — and Dr David Levinson, a physician from Berkeley, California, visited Iraq between April 5 and 12.

"A health catastrophe of immense proportions" is threatened, according to Dr Levinson, because of damage to the country's infrastructure. His report says, "The entire health care system is severely crippled as a result of the war, and serious health care consequences are already visible throughout the country ... All the parameters for severe epidemics exist in Iraq: poor sanitation, no communication, lack of food, lack of medicines, lack of transportation, a poor water supply ..."

The doctor said "the bombing war against Iraq has been in a real sense a war against the health of the Iraqi people". The high-tech air war was "horrific in its capacity for long-term suffering, with high and unpredictable numbers of casualties from illness and disease".

Reparations required of Iraq by the cease-fire resolution will cripple the country's ability to respond to the health crisis, and therefore "run counter to the health care needs of the country", Levinson commented.

Abed and Gemma reported that the 40-day US bombing

campaign appears to have "systematically targeted" everything necessary to sustain civilian life in Iraq. Food production and distribution, sanitation, transportation, water supply, health care and much more are crippled. "The vast majority of these targets had no military application", the witnesses declared.

Levinson said he personally saw civilian homes and businesses destroyed by bombs although they were not located near any military or infrastructure targets. Thousands more civilian structures that were near such targets were hit, causing immense damage. "It is not possible to ascertain the total number of civilians killed in such bombing", Levinson said, "but they appear to be in the thousands to tens of thousands for the entire country".

An undetermined number of hospitals, clinics and ambulances were destroyed by the bombing, Levinson said. He also received unconfirmed reports of casualties and deaths to civilian health care workers.

There is a critical shortage of medical supplies throughout Iraq due to the blockade, Levinson reports. He said Iraqi officials claim the UN sanctions committee has delayed the flow of medical shipments to Iraq through over-strict inspection.

He added that sanctions preventing Iraq from exporting oil to generate revenue to purchase medical supplies have aggravated the crisis.

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