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Fallujah’s infants suffer from sharp rise in birth defects

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Doctors and officials in Fallujah are appealing to the international community for an investigation into the unnatural increase in birth defects, 5 years after two major battles between the U.S. military and Sunni militia groups took place there.

The war-ravaged population center has seen an increase of up to 15 times as many chronic deformities in infants since pre-war levels, according to a report by the UK’s Guardian. Documented statistics for birth defects in Fallujah have only emerged in recent months, but the rate of abormalities, including early-life cancers, is high enough to cause alarm at Fallujah’s General Hospital.

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“We are seeing a very significant increase in central nervous system anomalies,” the hospital’s director, Dr Ayman Qais, told the Guardian. “Before 2003 I was seeing sporadic numbers of deformities in babies. Now the frequency of deformities has increased dramatically.”

“Most are in the head and spinal cord, but there are also many deficiencies in lower limbs,” he said. “There is also a very marked increase in the number of cases of less than two years with brain tumors. This is now a focus area of multiple tumors.”

Fallujah was the site of the only two ‘set-piece’ battles to take place after the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. Fighter jets bombed the city and heavy artillery was used in conjunction with the controversial incendiary white phosphorus.

Samira Abdul Ghani, a pediatrician, was asked by The Guardian to keep track of all birth defects for a three-week period at Fallujah General Hospital. In that time alone, 37 infants were born with anomalies, many of them with neural tube defects.

A neural tube defect is an opening in the spinal cord or brain that occurs very early in human development. 1 in 1,000 babies born in America suffer from neural tube defects.

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Dr. Bassam Allah, head of Fallujah’s children’s ward, urged international agencies last week to start taking soil samples and investigating the abnormal births.

UPI reports that Basra and Najaf, cities similarly racked by heavy fighting, have also seen sharp increases in the number of birth defects.

The Guardian’s video investigation can be found here.

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American Airlines ordered passengers to stop social distancing — because they hadn’t paid for exit seats

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On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that the flight crew on an American Airlines trip ordered two passengers to stop social distancing and move back to their seats.

The reason? The empty row they moved into cost slightly more.

"On a June 30 flight on American Airlines from Dallas to Newark, Joy Gonzalez, an aviation engineer based in Seattle, found herself seated at a window with two older passengers beside her in the middle and aisle seats," reported Elaine Glusac. "In order to gain more social distance, she and the aisle passenger both moved to seats behind them where two rows were empty. But before takeoff, a flight attendant ordered them back to their assigned seats, telling them they had not paid for those exit row seats, which are more expensive."

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US artist’s holiday park sculpture fetches millions

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A huge sculpture by American artist Alexander Calder sold at auction in Paris on Wednesday for over 4.9 million euros, auctioneers Artcurial said, after nearly six decades on display at a holiday park in southern France.

The influential sculptor is known primarily for his colorful and abstract mobiles, of which he made thousands over the course of his career.

But he also made "stabiles" -- the opposite of mobiles -- one of which remained concealed from the general public in La Colle-sur-Loup village, a few dozen kilometres from the ritzy city Cannes.

The black steel 3,5 meter (11 foot) structure was made by Calder in 1963.

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Joe Shapiro’s wife disputes Mary Trump’s claim her husband took SATs for Trump

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Mary Trump's upcoming tell-all book alleges that President Donald Trump's sister did his homework and friend and fellow University of Pennsylvania graduate, Joe Shapiro, took his SATs for him.

ABC News reported Wednesday that Pam Shriver, Shapiro's widow, said that he would never have done something like that.

"He always did the right thing, and that's why this hurts," said Shriver.

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