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IPPNW and ICBUW Press Release

Congenital Defects in Iraq

WHO stalls publication of report on effects of uranium weapons

September 26, 2013 – The Iraqi Ministry of Health claims that there is no evidence of an increased rate of congenital birth defects in Iraq, according to their recently published provisional report, which was supported by the WHO.

The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) and the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) are critical of this claim. The design of the study, previous study results and contradictory assertions by high-ranking officials in the Iraqi Ministry of Health have all cast doubt on the findings.

IPPNW and ICBUW call on the WHO and the Iraqi Ministry of Health to publish the full dataset and submit it to an Open Access journal to allow credible and transparent peer-review. Moreover, they call on the Iraqi Ministry of Health to finally begin establishing a national hospital-based registry of congenital deformities and childhood cancer cases.

Iraqi doctors have been reporting a high rate of congenital birth defects in many regions in Iraq, for instance in Basrah and Fallujah, since the mid-nineties; with many of the affected newborns displaying extremely severe anomalies. In March 2013, the BBC showed a shocking documentary film about the situation there . In the film Born Under a Bad Sign, an official from the Iraqi Ministry of Health talks about a steep increase in the number of congenital birth defects. He said that he believes it possible that these were caused by war-induced environmental pollution, including the use of weapons containing depleted uranium.

The Iraqi Ministry of Health and the WHO began this large-scale pilot study on the issue of the rate of deformities in Iraq in March 2012. The aforementioned summary report is only the first of three parts of the full survey and was made public on September 11, 2013. Although it was explicitly marked “provisional”, the unnamed authors already conclude that the study delivers no evidence for an unusually high rate of congenital defects in Iraq. The rates for Fallujah and Basrah are claimed to be just over half that typical of developed countries.

As part of the study, household heads and women of childbearing age of 10,800 households across 18 districts in Iraq were surveyed on the number of malformed newborns, miscarriages and stillbirths they had experienced during the previous 15 years. Medical records could only be found for 32% of the children who were registered as having a birth defect. For all others, there was nothing else to rely on but the memories of those asked, a particularly debatable source, and prone to error. Statistics of rates of deformity in newborns made available by the Ministry and hospital statistics were not compared with the survey findings or even discussed. This published section of the study has not even been peer-reviewed by independent scientists.

The USA continues to refuse to release exact geographical coordinates of the locations where it used DU munitions in Iraq and the precise quantities; in spite of three UN General Assembly resolutions calling for greater transparency. Medical sources in Iraq and media reports have consistently indicated that there is considerable pressure on doctors and researchers to downplay the rates of birth defects in the country.
The provisional report of the Iraqi Health Ministry can be found here:

The IPPNW/ICBUW report (in German) „Die gesundheitlichen Folgen von Uranmunition“ can be found here: www.kurzlink.de/uranmunition  

A petition launched by Fallujah-based paediatrician Samira Al’aani, calling on the WHO and Iraqi Ministry of Health to release the study data has attracted more than 50,000 signatures and can be found here www.change.org/act4iraq

As part of the Uranium Film Festival in Munich a matinee on the issue of “War and Uranium Weapons” will take place on September 28, 2013. Winfrid Eisenberg (IPPNW) and Prof. Manfred Mohr (ICBUW) will speak. More information: bit.ly/15uYqXj

Contact: Angelika Wilmen, IPPNW Press Officer, Tel. +49-30-69 80 74-15, German affiliate of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), Körtestr. 10, 10967 Berlin, www.ippnw.de, Email: wilmen@ippnw.de
Prof. Manfred Mohr, ICBUW Germany, Tel. +49-30-20654857, www.bandepleteduranium.org


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