Network of Iraqi Reporters for Investigative Journalism

Network of Iraqi Reporters for Investigative Journalism

Now that Fifteen Years lapsed After Phosphorus Bombardment of Fallujah: Generation of Malformed Births

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Investigative Report by Kamal Al-Ayash

It’s only a matter of minutes for ‘Aboud Salaam’ to know what destiny is awaiting his own family, a lifetime joy or a lifelong misfortune. He is now seen dragging his feet to and fro around the reception area of Fallujah Educational Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital. The pieces of his praying beads can be seen moving fast among his shaking fingers. His wife was accompanied by some nurses to the delivery room and he has been waiting impatiently outside for over an hour now. His worrying feelings can be obviously revealed by his lips uttering repeatedly, “Oh, my God, a perfect birth, a flawless child.”

The birth of a malformed baby or a sick infant has actually become the overwhelming common fear felt not only by ‘Aboud Salaam’ but by all the fathers staying in the waiting hall of this hospital, known to be concerned with maternity cases.

The fact of the matter is that the ferocious battles fought in Fallujah a decade or so ago, when the American army used a list of internationally banned arms, including uranium, white phosphorus, and laser-guided missiles, have all made Fallujah one of the most vulnerable cities begetting malformed infants, as indicated by some specialists and revealed by the information collected in this worthwhile investigative report.

Aboud was lucky enough to eventually become a father. He called his first son ‘Farag’ (an Arabic name expressing a relief after hard suffering), perhaps because he had been long waiting for him)

‘Aboud’ got married three years before, and he was hesitant about begetting a child. This is because one of his family members had given birth to a child with leukemia. That was ‘Ques’, the son of his younger sister, who is now staying in Jordan for medical treatment. Hesitation increased more and more when his second sister gave birth to a baby girl with one eye in the middle of her front, and died even before being given a name.

“What kind of life is this? It looks much like a horror film”, Aboud says nervously and continues saying, and “We’ve completely given up the idea of having children. We no longer want kids. My wife kept on using birth-preventing devices to avoid having the same tragedy repeated again and again. But how on earth can we remain so!!!   Both of us were dreaming about having a happy family with children”.  He paused for a while, as if he had remembered something important and then said, “A boy or a girl, it doesn’t matter at all. What matters most is their health and wellbeing”.

Photos taken during ‘Operation Phantom Fury’, showing the huge amount of damage (roughly 70%) of the city’s existing buildings

In the city of Fallujah, 60 km north west of the capital Baghdad, what matters for the families waiting outside delivery rooms is not just hearing about the birth of an infant, but what matters most now is to be reassured that the newly-born babies are devoid of any of the malformations they have been used to see and hear about during the last (15) years, specifically after the city, whose area does not exceed 16 square kilometers, suffered badly from the joint military operations led by the American army together with Iraqi forces to rid Fallujah of ISIL militants who had been besieged for long months within the city using tens of thousands of civilians as a human shield.

In fact, Fallujah witnessed two offensives in 2004, the first was in early April and lasted for weeks, and the second, code-named as Operation Phantom Fury, started on the 7th of November to the end of December 2004.

This offensive ended with the storming of the city which witnessed wide-scale devastation as a result of the bombardment of thousands of missiles and projectiles launched by jet fighters, helicopters, canons, US Abrams tanks and rocket launchers carried on war vehicles.  Approximately 70% of the total constructions of the city were totally or partially destroyed or damaged. As per some local officials, thousands of US marines joined an Iraqi force consisting of three brigades from the national guards, took part in this battle.

And according to a member of the Compensation Commission set up after the battle, 42371 applications for reparations were submitted by those affected by the devastation of houses, or damage of trading stores or industrial establishments, or loss of private vehicles or possessed cattle.

Compensations were then allocated by the US and Iraqi governments. Iraq’s Minister of Industry and Head of Fallujah Reconstruction Committee, Hagem Al-Hussny, pointed out that the Iraqi government allocated one hundred million US dollars as a first payment to cover roughly 20% of the actual city needs.

It is noteworthy that Iraq’s successive governments did nothing to rid the city of the remaining ammunitions hidden among the rubble, neither did they act to figure out the losses in citizens’ lives or bodies resulted from ‘Operation Phantom Fury’. Neither did they recognize that its ally Washington had committed ‘war crimes’ or at the very least compensate those badly affected citizens or follow up the healthy conditions of the patients, according to what was said by a civil activist who preferred not to mention his name.

Despite the abundance of  testimonies, pictures,  and videos documenting the use of white phosphorus capable of dissolving human bodies as well as poisonous gases, and napalm projectiles in a deadly effort to achieve victory over militants,  and despite the large numbers of  malformed births and death of innumerable children as registered in the official records of civil status and health centers- despite  all of such flagrant evidences, there is no single official statement to monitor the actual tragic consequences of the military war machine.

This is way the government of Baghdad prefers to keep the door of the investigation file tightly closed, and throw its key deep in the well of political interactions. As for the US government, they admitted their use of white phosphorus in Fallujah, but their law does not regard it as a chemical weapon.

Meanwhile, the inhabitants of the stricken city feel badly embarrassed to talk about their afflicted children due to the sensitivity of such an issue from the social point of view.  A phenomenon that has been repeated elsewhere in the world, where victims had been exposed to radioactive bombardment such as in Hiroshima, whose inhabitants feel reluctant to speak about malformations, and prefer to talk about deaths.

A father of a 13-year old girl in Fallujah feels the same way. His daughter suffers from a malformation in her backbone. He completely declined to talk with us saying, “Please man, we haven’t any patients in our family” and asked us not to ever contact him again.

What is worst is the reticence observed by the local government which is reluctant to give any information about patients lest they would be exposed to any vexatious pursuit or lose their jobs.  Such fears were expressed by more than one official in the Governorate Council of Al-Anbar and other employees in the Ministry of Health in Baghdad.

Nazem Al-Hadidy, Media Director of Al-Fallujah Hospital, was one of the few people who agreed to talk with us (a decision was released to dismiss him from his position and transfer him from the city of Fallujah soon after meeting with our investigation team). He took us in a tour to the hospital’s different wards until we reached the hospital library with a good number of researches and reports.

The photos arranged in a straight line on the library hall show tens of malformed infants born without limbs or with congruent ones. A line of other photos display one-eyed newly-born infants  or with bowels outside their bodies, or with scarce skin diseases such as what is known as the frog’s skin, or infants born with malformed lips or ears or noses, not to mention the other indescribable pictures of baby bodies whose parts can be hardly recognized.

This photo show, which hides more tragic detailed information, was actually the springboard from which urged us to investigate the data base collected through the individual efforts of some physicians serving in the city’s two hospitals.

” As you can see by your very own eyes, malformed births are ceaseless here, and might increase more and more.”, Al-Hadidy said while pointing with his fingers at a picture taken late last year, “This infant died soon after birth, like many others.”, he said.

 

        Nightmare of Malformed Births Prevailing in Fallujah

A 116-Day Survey

Year         Number of Malformed Children

  • 345
  • 309
  • 363
  • 334

Malformations affected

Nervous Systems

Cleft – Lips and Throat Palates In 2014

The State Organization Took Power in the city and the

Medical Team Stopped Documenting Malformation Cases

14% Malformed Infants

As per official estimates, roughly 450,000 people live in Fallujah, half of whom exist in the city. This large number is medically served by only two hospitals, the first is the educational hospital with a capacity of only 200 beds which had been receiving all patients including delivery cases until the year 2012 when all necessary maintenance works had been completed in the second Gynecological and Pediatric Hospital. This hospital has a manpower of 11 male and female physicians specialized in gynecological diseases in addition to one single doctor specialized in the health of mothers and fetuses.

“Our medical team fails to provide the necessary health services for the inhabitants of this city and the other neighboring villages and boroughs, particularly as regards the early detection of diseases and malformations.” says one of the women physicians working in the hospital.

 

    Deadly Reticence

According to the official estimates, approximately 6,000 babies are born and registered in the civil status circles every year, but nobody knows or wants to talk about this issue. All attempts to approach the two ministries of health and planning in Baghdad were of no avail and were encountered either with apologies or frequent postponement of any arranged meeting. They are even reluctant to reply to our mail messages or phone calls.

Our investigation team managed at last, with the help of a group of doctors and staff members, to obtain from the aforementioned two hospitals the medical records registering birth malformation cases as from the year 2010 until the collapse of the city at the hands of the so-called Islamic state, known as ISIL and in Arabic as ‘Daesh’ early in 2014. Such data was actually collected by a woman doctor named ‘Samira Al-Anny’, with the assistance of a number of physicians, during their official working hours.

Pediatrician ‘Samira Al-Anny’ says, “I used to register deformity cases all weekdays during my 8-hour working shifts, except on Fridays, without any assistance or support from anyone.”

The documents obtained by us reveal that during the 116-day survey conducted in 2010, 345 infants were born with malformations in the nervous system, specifically in the spinal cord, and cerebrum. Other malformations include babies with cleft-lips, or fissures in the throat palate.

During the same period of the year 2011, 309 similar cases were detected. This number increased in 2012 to reach as high as 363 malformed infants, whereas the year 2013, the records registered 334 malformed cases from amongst the newly-born infants.

In a nutshell, the survey conducted by the medical team indicates that the median rate of the babies born with congenital birth defects is 337 from amongst 2292 natural and caesarian births during the regular working hours, that is 14.7% from the total number of newly-born babies.

Early in the year 2014, the Islamic State Organization known, as ‘ISIL’ took the reins in the city and dominated all aspects of life there. That had actually made most of those engaged in the survey stop their work and desert the city altogether, thus bringing the process of malformation registry to a halt.

One of the last doctors, who managed to flee the city in late 2015, was Dr. ‘Ahmad Al-Shamy’. He said, “The military operations escalated and reached its peak soon after ‘Daesh’ took power in the city and the top priority was given then to the wounded and victims at the expense of the other regular patients.” He adds saying, “The city was completely vacated from its medical and administrative skills and no one then cared about the issue of congenital anomalies”.

While sitting in his private library and turning over a pile of files containing medical reports written in Arabic and supported by English-translated versions, Dr. Al-Shamy said, “The aforementioned figures are only concerned with women who had given their births in the hospital.”

Another doctor who declined to mention his name commented on the issue saying, “The city of Fallujah is governed by some strict tribal traditions that impose on a large number of women to give their births within doors, and in case of any death or stillbirth, the baby is not registered at all, a state of affairs that makes the actual figures of congenital malformations much more than that mentioned earlier.”

Fallujah Nightmare of Prevalent Congenital Malformations

 Falluja Children

Rate of lead-contaminated teeth

 (5) Times more

Rate of lead- contaminated hairs in Fallujah malformed Infants

 Basra Infants

Rate of lead-contaminated teeth

3 Times more

 

Excess of Worldly-Known Rates

‘Samira Al-Aaly’, the pediatrician supervising this survey, is the first doctor to monitor this phenomenon and make it known to the information media and the various local and global health circles, due to her daily dealings with a large number of these cases. She began diagnosing them as ‘non-congenital malformations’.

She received us in Al-Fallujah Educational Hospital after her morning shift and talked to us about the failure of the health establishment in dealing with this critical file.

“In the course of our work in 2005 and 2006, we were detecting a number of birth malformations, but they were quite different from what we are observing nowadays”. She said and added, “In 2009, while monitoring during three running weeks, the birth of 37 malformation cases of this kind, including 13 cases in one single day, we realized that we are encountering a catastrophe that necessitates exceptional efforts. So we started to make more accurate lab tests and field visits.”

Al-Aaly began to move and exert more and more efforts together with her medical colleagues.  They sent the results of their monthly tests to Al-Anbar Health Directorate and to Iraq’s Ministry of Health, but such an initiative had not seemed to sound the alarm bell yet, while cases of birth malformations are still on the rise. They are much more than the well-known global rate which does not in any way exceed 5% of the total newly-born infants, as per Dr. Al-Aaly.

It is noteworthy that as high as 147 malformed infants in each 1,000 births have been detected in Al-Fallujah only, according to the data our investigation team managed to procure.

One of the physicians working at the Gynecological and Pediatric Hospital, who declined to publish her name, experiences this tragedy with her family, after the wife of her brother gave birth to two infants with congruent lower limbs. She says,” Owing to war operations, the city has turned into a focus of deadly radiations, and the concerned ministries act as if that’s none of their business. We are the ones who bear the expenses of the surgical operations with the financial support of some European organizations, whereas Iraq’s government has not yet offered any initiative in this regard.”

 

    Incorrect Official Figures

Anytime the issue of birth defects is raised, government sources keep their doors tightly closed. The only document available for the public is a briefing of an unpublished study consisting of less than 8 pages. This study was prepared by Iraq’s Health Ministry, in cooperation with the World Health Organization ‘WHO’ in 2013. It contains the results of a controversial field survey challenged by many experts.

The paper published on WHO website is entitled ‘A précis on the prevalent congenital defects in 18 geographical locations in Iraq’. This study covers eight Iraqi governorates, but it does not carry the names of the team members  who had supervised the preparation of the submitted study, and due to what is regarded as ‘political pressures’, the study does not refer to any relation between the use of enriched uranium and the rise of malformation rates.

An Iraqi official in the Health Ministry was quoted as saying, “Such a claim ‘necessitates more detailed researches by specialized agencies and establishments“.

Surprisingly, the study concluded that the two cities of Fallujah and Basra registered the lowest rates as regards congenital defects, abortions, and child deaths, compared with other locations which were not exposed to similar bombardments with internationally-banned arms.

The rates of malformation births in the city of Fallujah reached, as per the Health Ministry, 14.6 in every 1,000 births, that is actually one tenth of the rate recorded  by the medical team working in the two hospitals of Fallujah, whereas ‘Al-Hilla’ (Babel Governorate) registered 25.8 congenital cases in each 1,000 births. In ‘Al-Khales’ Directorate (of Dially Governorate), the same rate came as 20.7 in each 1,000 births.

Commenting on such shocking results, Dr. Al-Anny says, “These are erroneous figures. Any doctor in Fallujah knows it quite well.”

Nightmare of Congenital Malformations Dominate Fallujah

Dr. Keith Baverstock says, “My study was deleted from the

‘WHO’ paper, despite

the fact that some of my researches are dependent upon researches

released by the Pentagon (the headquarters of the US

Defence Department), about the impacts

of the enriched uranium used by the American forces and it

proves beyond any doubt that enriched uranium

is genetically poisonous.

 

Dr. Keith Baverstock, a medical researcher in the Department of Environmental Science at the University of Eastern Finland, had been working with WHO for 13 long years as a regional adviser for radiation and its impacts on public health.  He stressed that the study submitted by Iraq’s Ministry of Health is ‘completely frustrating’. In the course of an interview with the British Guardian newspaper, he said, “It was decided from the very beginning to exclude any relation between birth defects and the use of the dirty arms by the joint American and British forces in Iraq.”

The researcher criticized the released document and made crystal clear that it lacks scientific authenticity, and stressed that it could not in any way pass through any reporting review done even by any of the worst scientific magazines.

“The study had a blind eye to the medical registers kept by Iraq’s hospitals, which document the malformation cases monitored by Iraqi doctors in the course of their work”, he exclaims and continues his criticism of the study saying, “Iraqi physicians had been monitoring patients’ registers and reporting all congenital malformation cases. Their numbers are much higher than what is listed in the study. Instead of following such worthwhile registers, the document based its diagnosis on meetings arranged with mothers.”

 

    No One Ever Came To Us 

  The meaningful story told by expert Baverstock, finds its second chapter in the story narrated by Dr. Samira Al-Anny about ‘a fabrication’ process carried out by Iraq’s Health Ministry to prove that the rates of congenital malformations in Fallujah come within the well-known natural standards.

  Dr Al-Anny says, “In 2012, experts from the World Health Organization approached us, asking to arrange a weeklong visit to check up the congenital malformation file. However, long months went by and nobody came to see us. Later on, I heard from some persons that doctors, accompanied by some employees, are making visits to some houses and preparing a questionnaire about birth defects. I then asked the hospital’s management about that, but they denied carrying out any questionnaire.”

  “Later on, I got to know from one of the doctors who had taken part in the survey that the government sent them to some limited addresses and the sample was not randomly selected at all, but it was previously well-studied and known to the questionnaire’s preparers. So it is crystal clear that a fabrication process had been concocted to reach such false results.” Dr. Al-Anny said.

   A woman doctor from Fallujah, who participated in the survey and who asked not to publish her name, says, “We were instructed to go to some carefully selected houses in the same street without knocking the doors of any other houses. I don’t really know how the questionnaire was carried out in the other governorates and if the same thing happened there or not, but that what exactly happened in Fallujah.”

   The questionnaire accomplished by the World Health Organization covered 10,800 people in (18) residential areas in Iraq, as per the information published on the website.

    Expert Baverstock thinks, as mentioned in the course of his talk to the Guardian newspaper, that ‘the way the questionnaire was untaken is completely suspected’, and there are many question marks about the role played by both the US and UK in this regard, in view of the fact that their interests can be badly harmed by this kind of studies, particularly concerning the compensation cases that can be raised later on.’

   The above comment was made by a distinguished researcher who was once one of a team members entrusted by the World Health Organization in 2001 to conduct a research study about the responsibility of both America and Britain for the health and environmental hazards resulting from the use of enriched uranium. However, his detailed researches and elaborate recommendations which prove that the nature of uranium metal turns it into one of the genetic poisons capable of changing the genetic ribonucleic (RNA), were regretfully disregarded.

    In this context, Baverstock wrote, “My share in the study was deleted, despite the fact that some of its researches were reliant on studies that had already released by the Pentagon (the headquarters of the US Defence Department). It deals with the impacts of the enriched uranium released by friendly fires on the US forces, and it proves clearly that enriched uranium is genetically poisonous.”

    Several researches already published during the past years, including a research conducted by Michigan University, in association with Iraqi doctors, refer that enriched uranium is a heavy poisonous metal whose atoms can reach the sperms and ovum, increasing cancer and genetic malformation risks. 

  Called for Investigation  

   All the electoral constituencies affiliated with Al-Anbar Governorate Council failed to take a single decision to conduct a field survey or purchase the medical equipment necessary for detecting the early detection of deformities, in spite of allocating funds for other less important projects, described by some as ‘unnecessary’.

   A former member of Al-Anbar Governorate Council was quoted as saying, “Local politicians hold the stick from the middle to balance between the international pressures on one hand, and the popular demands on the other.”

  Meanwhile, the governorate management gave the green light to hold conferences to submit the results of independent researches such as that conducted by Michigan University, which detected the presence of high rates of lead, mercury and other poisonous metals in the hairs and teeth of the newly-born infants in the city. Nevertheless, the contribution to such a conference were either ‘ bashfully little or nothing at all’.

  The study conducted by the American University, with the participation of some Iraqi doctors, found out that the rates of lead are five times higher in the hairs of Fallujah infants, who were born with congenital defects, compared with the other children.

  Researchers also discovered that there is an increase in the lead rates found in the teeth of Basra infants, reaching 3 times more than that of the children in other Iraqi cities. This poisonous metal affects the central nervous system of the child, causing fits of convulsions and other more serious mental and behavioral troubles, that can eventually lead to death.  

   Dr. Taleb Al-Genabby, who was head of the health and environment committee of Al-Anbar Governorate Council, from 2008 to 2012, says, “Some of the committee members attempted to take a resolution allowing the conduction of qualitative researches, but the two ministries of health and environment showed no positive cooperation in this respect.”

  He adds saying, “I’ve paid frequent visits to the Health Ministry in Baghdad, while taking advantage of all occasions to seek radical solutions to this persistent problem, but I was really facing many obstacles, some political and others financial. To me, such obstacles result from international pressures which make any action or procedure taken appear worthless, and perhaps in the best cases, do not exceed mere proposals taken and then kept on shelves.”

   In the same context, Dr. Al-Aaly comments saying, “If a genuine field research can be made, the size and causes behind this problem can be detected, but they are reluctant to do so.

  Having revealed some facts, I was called up for investigation and blamed by officials in the Ministry of Health.” She elaborates saying, “Meanwhile, there are some studies and reports that tried to attribute such birth malformations to the weapons brought by late president Sadam Hussein to dissipate any suspicion and exonerate the US forces of this war crime”.

  Another doctor working in Fallujah Hospital, who first refused to talk to us, lest she would be exposed to any kind of chase, referred to her very own experience nervously saying, ” If you want my opinion, and want me to talk clearly about our malformation cases, I assure you that I am a hundred per cent convinced that the internationally-banned weapons used by the USA are the prime cause behind this human catastrophe.”

 

        Nightmare of Malformed Births Prevailing in Fallujah

According to a thesis published on

The World Health Organization Website ‘WHO’

About rates of congenital malformations in Iraq 

  • 20,7% Al-Khales (Al-Dially Governorate)
  • 8% Al-Halla   (Babel Governorate)
  • 6% Al-Fallujah

Such percentages are definitely erroneous

Each and every Doctor in Fallujah knows it quite well

                                                                       Dr. Al-Anny

 

Reproduction Nightmare

The search of the infants, whose pictures are hung on the hall walls of Al-Fallujah Hospital, is a rather hard task, taking into account that most of them passed away soon after their birth and their families feel reluctant to talk to the media.

However, the situation seemed different with a daily-paid worker named ‘Raed Salleh’ (36 years). He is the father of two daughters; Aysha (5 years) suffers from atrophy in cerebrum cells, and ‘Malak’ (4 year) was born with a defective eye. Salleh carried his two poor kids between his arms and exaggeratingly welcomed us at a small one-room house situated in ‘Al-Shorta’ Neighborhood north of Fallujah city.

“My two daughters cannot be treated in Iraq’, he says regretfully, then he lowers his voice and whispers to avoid being heard by his younger daughter.”I feel terribly worried on hearing a child in the street abusing my daughter ‘Malak”, calling her one-eyed. I’m worried about her future and the destiny awaiting her sister in a society used to reject malformed patients.”

Like many other families of Fallujah, Saleh decided to resort to birth-preventing bills and other devices, to avoid experiencing the same tragedy repeated for the third time. Such a sorry state of affairs had been confirmed by a statistical survey accomplished by the preparers of this investigation, in cooperation with ‘The East Institute of Researches and Public Opinion Studies”

The survey conducted by the investigation team targeted 20 pharmacies, half of which is in Fallujah district, and the other half in Hit Diwaniyah, 50 km north west of Al-Ramaddi, taking into consideration that the two districts are similar, as regards their tribal social structure and almost same number of population.

 

And through a questionnaire paper distributed, with the help of some pharmacists, our team managed to find out that around 14% of daily buyers of medicines in Fallujah district purchase drugs or devices related to birth avoidance, compared with only 2% in the ‘Hit’. We came to know that the large majority of sample (roughly 86 %) are either intermediate school finishers or university graduates.

Hassan Jassem, a chemist, comments on the results saying, “It’s obvious that fear dominates the Fallujah community and that the nightmare of malformed births prevents people from receiving more or any babies.

Abortion ‘Fatwa’: (legitimate advice recommended by Moslem scholars)

The rise in the congenital malformations rates has actually created a state of perpetual coordination between the activists in the city and some non-governmental organizations ‘NGOs’, which managed to provide two important apparatuses used for the early detection of birth defects. However, the Islamic State ‘ISIL’ known in Arabic as ‘Daesh’ confiscated  and kept them in an unknown place soon after imposing their military power on the city.

Dr. S, the only specialist in maternity and fetus medical care in Fallujah, says that the modern sonar apparatus was helping us a great deal in diagnosing fetus defects during the first five weeks of pregnancy. That enabled us to advise mothers of defective babies to avoid pregnancy again.”

 

Doctor S. refers to other diseases that are not listed under malformations and need to be diagnosed at the early stages of pregnancy using another apparatus unlike the sonar. It costs about half a million US dollars. These diseases include metabolic disorders, medically known as ‘metabolic syndrome’. Regretfully, the hospital lacks that kind of sophisticated medical equipment, something that makes doctors resort to the ordinary sonar and advise diseased mothers to get aborted in case of any suspicion about the safety of the fetus.

Due to the reserved nature of the city, Dr. S managed to get a legitimate ‘fatwa’ from clergymen in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and from an Islamic society in London. This ‘fatwa’ permits abortion if the fetus proves to be malformed during the early months of pregnancy.

While insisting upon speaking on condition of anonymity, for fear of being chased by any government authority, she points out that a large number of births take place within doors by legal midwives, and most husbands reject doing any early tests in the hospital, ‘consequently we are losing much by not having enough evidence to indict those accused of escalation of the malformation file.’

For your attention, some of the photos displayed in Fallujah for newly-born malformed infants, are much harder photos. DARAJ is reserved about making them public.

 

Al-Fallujah Solely

The prevalent tribal and clannish customs and traditions make families feel much proud of having safe and sound offspring, and mothers in Fallujah pay the price of such a communal system. That what exactly happened with the family of Abdel Rahman Al-Halboussy, which had broken up after the birth of a malformed infant. He divorced his first wife immediately after her first birth, and declined to remarry again.

In the course of our investigation, we heard many stories about broken families, or families isolating their kids and preventing them to go outdoors, as if it is a compulsory life imprisonment.

Regretfully, despite the multiplicity of the cases at hand, yet they still fail to establish materialistic evidence capable of holding the joint American and British forces accountable for what had happened. Nonetheless, they refer strongly that Baghdad government is declined to seek facts or move the file legally, and they also assure the total absence of the role needed to be played by the Health Ministry as regards following up the inflicted patients or bearing the expenses of their treatment.

A fellow citizen like Adel Kamel (37 years), who lives in Al-Shohadaa Neighborhood, south of Fallujah city, had so far incurred  US 15,000 for the treatment of his son Abdullah (6 years), and Iraq’s government had not paid a single penny as described by him.

The helpless father says, “My son suffers from urinary bladder fistula and other malformations and defects in his reproductive system, and as per the doctors who diagnosed his case in Kurdistan Province, the cost of his treatment and plastic surgeries reach as high as $ 30,000, with no guarantees that surgical interference could succeed”.

Kamel is now approaching a French organization to secure the expenses of the coming surgery expected to be performed in the Jordanian capital Aman, in the absence of any specialists in such critical surgeries in Al-Fallujah.

He is one of the so many victims living in this city which had been struggling solely against the risks of congenital malformations for long fifteen years now.

As for the doctors whom we had met in the course of this investigation, they lay stress on the relation of these cases and the chemical weapons used during the military conflicts. They complain that all the facilities available for them now cannot help in any way to perform the lab tests necessary to examine samples from the victims’ bodies and find out dire needed facts. As for the time being, the only option available now is sending samples to labs in Europe and other neighboring countries.

Almost all those doctors, without any exception, were lowering their voices while talking about this critical congenital malformation issue. Meanwhile, they requested not to publish their names or even initials. lest they would be politically chased or dismissed from their jobs or called for investigation by the Health Ministry in Baghdad or being  blamed by any authority for any information given.

 

This investigation was accomplished with the support of the Network of Investigative Journalism ‘NIRIJ’, under the supervision of Kammy Al-Melhem