Newborn baby with birth defects in Al-Fallujah
Iraq Middle East USA

Al-Fallujah: The Continuous Toxic Legacy of War and Birth Defects

When asked about unjust tragedies in the world, a lot of things come to mind, but only one resounds. A stolen maternity of a mother who’s just had a baby she had hoped would be a healthy one; instead, her precious child is defected, deformed, and beyond saving.  In 2003, the U.S. invaded Iraq and had over 500 military bases and 170,000 troops active there at the height of the invasion. Al-Fallujah, an Iraqi city, was inhumanely bombed with white phosphorus and depleted uranium, which resulted in amounting cases of congenital birth defects (CBD). To this day, Al-Fallujah witnesses babies born with polydactyly, macrocephaly, spina bifida, hydrocephalus, encephalocele, micrognathia, skeletal dysplasia cleft lips\palate, cyclopia dysmorphic features, malformation and more. Cases are steadily documented online

On November 1st, 2009, Dr. Samira Allani, a pediatric specialist at the Fallujah General Hospital, and her team conducted a study there. The investigation lasted for eleven months, all congenital anomaly birth referrals were recorded. During the study period, 291 congenital anomaly cases were registered at birth at the study’s clinic. The total number of births registered in the hospital during that time period was 6049. The team registered 113 heart and circulatory system cases, 72 nervous system cases, 40 digestive system cases, 9 genitourinary cases, 6 ear, face, and neck cases, 7 respiratory cases, and 30 Down syndrome cases among the congenital anomalies.

In 2010, Dr. Allani added cases of abdominal wall defects to her horrific findings. She reported three abnormal cases of gastroschisis –a birth defect of the abdominal wall where the baby’s intestines are found outside of the baby’s body, exiting through a hole beside the belly button– and that two out of the three newborn babies have succumbed to their demise shortly after delivery.

In an interview with Dahr Jamail, an American journalist who reported extensively from Iraq during the 2003 American invasion and wrote about the crisis of congenital malformations of newborns, stated, “–From 2004 up to this day, we are seeing a rate of congenital malformations in the city of Fallujah that has surpassed even that in the wake of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that nuclear bombs were dropped on at the end of World War II.” It is noteworthy to mention that according to experts, the alpha radiation from the dust of depleted uranium iis twenty times more dangerous than gamma radiation from nuclear weapons.

Jamail further stated, “So, Dr. Samira Allani actually visited with doctors in Japan, comparing statistics, and found that the amount of congenital malformations in Fallujah is 14 times greater than the same rate measured in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in the aftermath of the nuclear bombings. These types of birth defects, she said—there are types of congenital malformations that she said they don’t even have medical terms for, that some of the things they’re seeing, they’ve never seen before. They’re not in any of the books or any of the scientific literature that they have access to.”

Most importantly perhaps, Jamail noted that Dr. Allani stated that, “It’s common now in Fallujah for newborns to come out with massive multiple systemic defects, immune problems, massive central nervous system problems, massive heart problems, skeletal disorders, baby’s being born with two heads, babies being born with half of their internal organs outside of their bodies, cyclops babies literally with one eye—really, really, really horrific nightmarish types of birth defects. And it is ongoing.

Despite the copious studies reporting the worryingly increasing rates of congenital birth defects in Iraq and condemning the toxic crimes of the U.S., and after a long-awaited report co-funded by the Iraqi Ministry of Health (MoH), the WHO failed humanity once it covered up for the USA and reported that “no clear evidence to suggest an unusually high rate of congenital birth defects in Iraq”.

Meanwhile, Dr. Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, an environmental toxicologist, conducted many studies on the radioactive footprint of the U.S. military presence in Iraq and its connection to congenital birth defects, and stated that, “The closer that you live to a U.S. military base in Iraq, the more likely you are to suffer serious congenital deformities and birth defects.”

Dr. Mozhgan Savabieasfahani also condemned the anonymity surrounding the report; no authors or responsible offices were identified by the report. Additionally, she pointed out that the reversal and alteration of the results was appalling.

And it perhaps came as a surprise to no one that Dr. Keith Baverstock, the lead author of a WHO report linking the US and UK use of depleted uranium in Iraq to long-term health risks, later revealed that his report was ‘deliberately suppressed’.

The Iraqi government seems to avoid political strife by accepting WHO’s report and concluding the investigation as closed. And any attempts taken to investigate the matter seem to be shut down or met with consequences; Nazem al-Hadidi, the Director of Media at the Al-Fallujah Educational Hospital was removed from his position and moved to another city after accepting an interview with Al-Menassa, a local media platform that aimed to investigate the congenital birth defects cases there.

Almost two decades after the U.S. invasion and the lethal bombing on Al-Fallujah, couples still hesitate to step into parenthood for the prevalent fear of having malformed and disfigured children that won’t live long enough to let out their first cry. The families sit in the waiting area of the maternity hospital not only praying for a successful delivery, but also for the delivery of a non-defected baby.

Among the pleading fathers is Aboud Salam, a Fallujah resident whose immediate family has witnessed previous cases of congenital birth defects. In an emotional outburst, he stated that people fear having children and said, “It’s not life, my brother. It’s a horror film, we amused ourselves with the idea of having children. We no longer want children anymore. My wife kept on taking pregnancy preventative pills so that the tragedy would not happen again. But in the end, we cannot go on like this. I was dreaming of the day our family would be complete with a child. Boy or girl does not matter… what is important is health and wellness”. Absolutely no parent should feel like this.

The weakest and most wronged victims of these crimes are the children born with defects, the least the world can do for them is hold the U.S. accountable for its war crimes– financially, politically, and medically.