My Mission to Iraq

Before our journey to Baghdad, Iraq. We were briefed on what we might expect to see there by a New Straits Times, Pn. Aishah Ali, who had followed Datuk Siti Hasmah on her trip last year. We were told to expect bad conditoned hospitals, terrible living conditions and general suffering among the people. She also told us that due to the war and the loss of loved ones, some of the people we might meet will be very ' different' . Different in the sense that they might not have the same views and opinions as us and may even be weird.

Our first stop was at the Karadat Maryam Orphanage. This orphanage was specifically for infants and children to the age of 7 years. We were told that the children go through a normal daily routine as any children their age. The older children of the orphanage (4-7 yrs) would attend playschool where games and songs are singed together.


The children there were open for adoption, families and childless couples are welcomed to adopt any child in the orphanage. Most of the children were picked up form the streets or sent to the orphanage by hospitals. There are cases of abandoned babies too. The babies who come from the hospitals may have lost their parents in accidents, or their mothers' died during the delivery.

We also learnt that lots of the children losed their parents to diseases like leukemia and other cancer-related diseases. The orphanage is totally funded by the government. Once the children reach 7 years old they are then sent to another orphanage for older children.

One of the hospitals we got to visit was the Babylon Hospital. The Babylon Hospital is considered a referral hospital but is in bad condition. The staff at the hospital say that they can only make do with what they have. They also mentioned that because of the embargo, many simple complications can' t be cured because they don' t have the proper equipment. For example the embargo allows fluids into Iraq but disallows the bags to hold the fluids and the pipes.

Minor things like this can create a big problem for the doctors. Infant mortality has jumped nearly 3 folds since the war, in 1989 it was reported to be around 47 babies per thousand but its now something like 112 per thousand babies. The head doctor cites poverty caused by the embargo to be the cause of high infant mortality. Lack of food and milk malnourishes these babies and cause a low immunity rate among the babies.


Cases of swelling of the body (lack of protein)and diaorhhea is very common.During the war many of Iraq' s water treatment plants were desroyed sending diaorhhea cases shooting up. Last year alone 200,000 cases were reported. Thousands of weak babies die because of diaorhhea, a sickness we consider nobody can die from in Malaysia. Cancers and tumour cases have jumped 6 folds since the war.

The hospitals says they have only 2 drugs out of the 4 needed to proceed with chemotherapy. From reports we believe that cancer is caused by the depleted uranium used in armour-piercing gun shells and bombs. Depleted uranium is also believed to be the major cause of birth abnormality.

We visited the Al-Meriyah shelter where more than 400 people were bombed by US bombers. There are only 14 survivors from that bombing. Families have been staying over the night in the shelter to feel safe and to escape the sounds of the bombings happening all around them since 17th January 1991, but on 13th Febuary 1991, the shelter was hit by a US smart bomb.

The first misille pierced through the Finnish-made shelter' s 2m of reinforced concrete. The tremendous pressure cut electricity and threw people all over. When the power was cut, the shelter' s steel doors locked down and couldn' t be opened.

Few minutes later, the 2nd missile came in, throught the hole made by the 1st missile. This missile held the explosive and burning material, scorching everything on the 1st floor at a tempreture of 400C. Meanwhile the hot water boiler on the 2nd floor had burst because of the 1st missile& flooding the service area with boiling water, killing all chance of escape for any survivors. In this tragedy, 100 children perished.

After seeing what the Iraqi children and people have gone through, I now feel very secure and grateful for the peace in Malaysia, something I took for granted before learning the plight of the Iraqi children.

 by Syamalan Subramaniam