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Why So Many are Dying in Iraq

We recently revealed that the death toll in Iraq is much higher than has been reported in the mainstream media. Doctors working in Iraq say that more than half of the civilians killed could have been saved if better medical equipment and more experienced staff and were available. We're putting billions of dollars into the war effort, but we won't win Iraqi hearts and minds if we don't spend some of this money on medical equipment.

Dr. Bassim Al Sheibani writes in the British Medical Journal that as the violence escalates, the reality is that they cannot treat many of the victims. Official figures from Iraqi authorities and UN agencies suggest that more than 14,338 Iraqi civilians were killed between January and June 2006. And reports indicate that the killing of civilians is rising, with more than 5,800 deaths and over 57,000 people injured during May and June 2006.

But emergency medicine in Iraq has never developed to meet such unprecedented demand, and as a result, emergency departments are staffed by doctors who do not have the proper experience or skills to manage emergency cases, and this lack of expertise is aggravated by the lack of medical equipment, supplies, and drugs.

Doctors also face challenges beyond poor resources and lack of emergency staff. Since they are perceived as members of an elite, they have become the target of daily insurgent activities. Many have been killed, others have fled the country, and those who decided to stay have closed their clinics, fearing for their lives.

In the Independent, Jeremy Laurance reports that half of all the deaths in Iraq could have been prevented. In the first 14 months after the 2003 invasion, almost 20 billion dollars was spent on reconstruction, including hundreds of millions on rebuilding and re-equipping the country's 180 hospitals and clinics. But billions more dollars disappeared due to criminal activity, corruption, and incompetence, leaving Iraqis in the state they are today, 3 years later: without even the essentials for basic medical care.

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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