Dahr Jamail reports for Al Jazeera English from Iraq:
While the US military has formally withdrawn from Iraq, doctors and residents of Fallujah are blaming weapons like depleted uranium and white phosphorous used during two devastating US attacks on Fallujah in 2004 for what are being described as “catastrophic” levels of birth defects and abnormalities.
Dr Samira Alani, a paediatric specialist at Fallujah General Hospital, has taken a personal interest in investigating an explosion of congenital abnormalities that have mushroomed in the wake of the US sieges since 2005.
“We have all kinds of defects now, ranging from congenital heart disease to severe physical abnormalities, both in numbers you cannot imagine,” Alani told Al Jazeera at her office in the hospital, while showing countless photos of shocking birth defects.
As of December 21, Alani, who has worked at the hospital since 1997, told Al Jazeera she had personally logged 677 cases of birth defects since October 2009. Just eight days later when Al Jazeera visited the city on December 29, that number had already risen to 699.
“There are not even medical terms to describe some of these conditions because we’ve never seen them until now,” she said. “So when I describe it all I can do is describe the physical defects, but I’m unable to provide a medical term.”
‘Incompatible with life’
Most of these babies in Fallujah die within 20 to 30 minutes after being born, but not all.
Four-year-old Abdul Jaleel Mohammed was born in October 2007. His clinical diagnosis includes dilation of two heart ventricles, and a growth on his lower back that doctors have not been able to remove.
Abdul has trouble controlling his muscles, struggles to walk, cannot control his bladder, and weakens easily. Doctors told his father, Mohamed Jaleel Abdul Rahim, that his son has severe nervous system problems, and could develop fluid build-up in his brain as he ages, which could prove fatal.
“This is the first instance of something like this in all our family,” Rahim told Al Jazeera. “We lived in an area that was heavily bombed by the Americans in 2004, and a missile landed right in front of our home. What else could cause these health problems besides this?”
Dr Alani told Al Jazeera that in the vast majority of cases she has documented, the family had no prior history of congenital abnormalities.
Alani showed Al Jazeera hundreds of photos of babies born with cleft palates, elongated heads, a baby born with one eye in the centre of its face, overgrown limbs, short limbs, and malformed ears, noses and spines.
She told Al Jazeera of cases of “thanatophoric dysplasia”, an abnormality in bones and the thoracic cage that “render the newborn incompatible with life”.
Rahim said many of his relatives that have had babies after 2004 are having problems as well.
“One of them was born and looks like a fish,” Rahim said. “I also personally know of at least three other families who live near us who have these problems also.”
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