Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Desperate Acts of Ordinary Iraqis Farmers Prosper under Sanctions, but Most in Baghdad Must Face Nights of Fear and Days of Hunger

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Desperate Acts of Ordinary Iraqis Farmers Prosper under Sanctions, but Most in Baghdad Must Face Nights of Fear and Days of Hunger

Article excerpt

tHE Khadissiya hospital, sprawling along a rubbish-strewn boulevard in Saddam City, Baghdad's poorest slum, was perhaps never the world's most attractive health facility.

But in former days, its patients and staff could at least enjoy the grassy lawn and flowering shrubs that grew in the hospital's courtyard, offering a respite from the dreary institutional wards.

Not any more. Today, Iraq's economy crushed by international sanctions, the garden has been torn up in the interests of self-sufficiency. Where bougainvillea and hibiscus once bloomed, okra, eggplant, and zucchini now wilt under a ferocious sun.

Inside, Maryam Fakhran, a slack infant in the emergency ward, lies dehydrated. The facility is desperately short of supplies, but what Maryam most lacks is a decent diet. Her mother, Nejaat, cannot afford to buy her milk, nor can she feed her herself, as she is subsisting only on bread, rice, and vegetables. Asked when she last ate meat, she laughs bitterly, and cannot remember.

Nejaat once lived in a rented home. Now broke, she has moved with her husband, a construction worker, and seven children into a relative's house. Nejaat may be at the bottom of Iraqi society, but more and more families are joining her there, as hyperinflation pauperizes people who used to be able to get by, including the once-comfortable professional classes.

Prices fluctuate wildly in Iraq, as does the value of the United States dollar on the universally used black market, depending on the political news.

When fears of another bombing raid sweep Baghdad, merchants raise their prices. When the government reached an agreement with the United Nations July 19 on long-term monitoring of its weapons program, averting the threat of attack, prices cooled off a little.

But inexorably, the price spiral rises, forcing ordinary Iraqis into desperate acts. …

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