Monday, January 16, 2006

Iraq: public health in reverse

If this is what "progress" means, maybe a little failure wouldn't hurt. My colleague Cervantes, whose blog Stayin' Alive is surely among the most deserving of the Most Deserving of Wider Recognition Awards in this year's Koufax Awards (hope he makes the semi-Finals; if he does, vote early and vote often), has just done a rundown of the "health" situation in Iraq. Here's his bottom line:
It is now more than a year later, and the only up-to-date information available is anecdotal. The intrepid Dahr Jamail reports that in the region of most active combat, particularly al-Anbar province, U.S. forces continue to raid, disrupt and damage hospitals in pursuit of insurgents. Even without the attacks, hospitals are barely functioning due to lack of electricity, non-functioning equipment, shortages of drugs and supplies, and curfews which force personnel to go home and services to stop after 5:00 pm.

Jamail also reports that unemployment is approximately 70%, most Iraqis cannot afford to feed themselves adequately, and hospitals in general are barely functional.

Nearly three years after the invasion, the U.S. can no longer legitimately blame Saddam Hussein for conditions in the country. Yet the administration has announced that it does not intend to spend any additional funds on the reconstruction of the country. Trends since September 2004 have undoubtedly been negative, so it is reasonable to suppose that excess deaths since the invasion are now at least somewhere close to 200,000 and probably mroe. But the future burden of a malnourished, chronically infected, psychologically traumatized population without access to medical care will continue to devastate the country for decades, regardless of how soon stability can be established and economic and social conditions improve.
There is a lot else in his excellent post for those who haven't been following the largely invisible slaughter of civilians beyond the car bomb headlines.

Government policy driving pubic health--in reverse.