Childhood Is Dying In Iraq

Published on, (source: IPSnews), by Dahr Jamail & Ahmed Ali, 11 March, 2008.

Download first: Rising to the humanitarian challenge in Iraq, 40 pdf-pages, July 2007.

… Iraq’s children have been more gravely affected by the U.S. occupation than any other segment of the population.

The United Nations estimated that half a million Iraqi children died during more than 12 years of economic sanctions that preceded the U.S. invasion of March 2003, primarily as a result of malnutrition and disease.

But childhood malnutrition in Iraq has increased 9 percent since then, according to an Oxfam International report released last July.

A report from the non-governmental relief organisation Save the Children shows Iraq continues to have the highest mortality for children under five. Since the first Gulf War, this has increased 150 percent. It is estimated that one in eight children in Iraq dies before the fifth birthday: 122,000 children died in 2005 alone. Iraq has a population of about 25 million …

… According to the UN Children’s Fund, only 40 percent of children nationwide have access to safe drinking water, and only 20 percent of people outside Baghdad have a working sewerage service. About 75,000 children are among families living in temporary shelters.

Ali Mahmood, 6, has lived with his uncle in Baquba after his parents were killed by a mortar explosion two years ago in random shelling by militants. Next year he will join primary school near his uncle’s house.

Ali’s days are alike, and quiet. His only friends are his uncle’s children. When they go to school, he simply spends his time alone. It does seem the uncle’s family is not able to look after him as well as his own might have. His uncle Thamir is doing his best, but life is difficult, and Thamir has responsibility for a big family.

Ali is deprived of just about everything in childhood; he has no place to play, or things to play with. And he has nobody to think of his future.

And already, he has responsibilities waiting; he has been told he must take care of his younger brother when he grows up.

Firas, Qusay and Ali are all children, but none the way children should be. (full long text).

(Ahmed, our correspondent in Iraq’s Diyala province, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who has reported extensively from Iraq and the Middle East).

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