IT'S well over a year since Operation Desert Storm ceased. Iraq
is no longer in the spotlight and for good reason. A number of the
parties involved in the war are anxious to put its conflict behind
them. Baghdad - the barometer for the Western media - appears to be
rapidly recovering. A return to "normalcy" is within sight.
Yet there is much more work to be done to alleviate the human
suffering and environmental damage in the region. The Gulf war and
the stiff United Nations embargo that followed have pushed Iraq -
once a rapidly developing nation - back by decades.
Studies conducted by international missions indicate that the
public health crisis in Iraq continues. The most comprehensive
examination to date, by the International Study Team (the second
Harvard Study Team), documents that over 70,000 children under the
age of five died in 1991 because of the effects of the Gulf war and
Subsequent studies indicate that nearly 30,000 children have
died in the first four months of 1992. The main cause of death is
malnutrition and dehydration. Infant mortality has risen 310
percent compared to pre-Gulf war Iraq.
Foreign physicians visiting Iraq are frustrated by the number of
children dying from previously minor ailments like flu or diarrhea.
Now as temperatures rise with the arrival of summer, the problem
will get worse. In southern Iraq, doctors are bracing for an
increase in cholera and typhoid fever.
The ability of UN relief agencies and nongovernmental
organizations to coordinate restoration projects or distribute food
and medicine in Iraq is shaky. Given the tensions between Iraq and
the United States-led coalition, relief groups are forced to
pirouette around the sanctions issue.
The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) was scheduled to
have pulled most of its several hundred staffers out of northern
Iraq by the end of May. Their mandate now goes to the already
overworked UNICEF staff in Iraq.
While the UNHCR recedes from the north, questions arise about
who will fill the role as the buffer between the Kurds and Saddam
Hussein's military. No one seems to have an answer.
Military historians are likely to remember the Gulf war as a
modern day blitzkrieg, a triumph of "smart bombs" and other
high-tech wizardry. While the fighting was brought to a swift
conclusion, however, the onslaught against the environment and
human health continues.
A recent report by the GAO on US weapon efficacy in the Gulf war
estimates that 70 percent of the conventional bombs dropped missed
their targets; 20 percent of the 88,500 tons of bombs dropped on
Iraq didn't explode.
Iraq's electrical system, the backbone of the country, was
thoroughly bombed. …