Unintended Targets of War

Insecurity and poverty in Iraq put pregnant women in danger
Report, IRIN, 26 December 2006

BAGHDAD – For years Salah Hussein, 26, had dreamed of having a child, but he never imagined that his wish would be marred by the death of his wife in childbirth.

Hussein’s wife, Fadiya, died of complications during a delivery which, doctors said, were caused by malnutrition and the stress of living in a war-torn country.

“We are a poor family and I couldn’t afford to buy her good food. This was not my fault but the fault of this destroyed country in which the conditions of the health sector are worsening day by day,” said Hussein who works as a barber in the capital, Baghdad.

Dozens of pregnant women with life-threatening conditions are being admitted to Iraq’s hospitals every month.

Dr. Mayada Youssif, a gynaecologist at Baghdad’s Kadhimiyah hospital, believes that pregnant women are falling ill due to the insecurity and poverty that Iraqis have to live with as a result of the conflict.

Many women give birth in environments where no-one is equipped to recognise an impending emergency. In some cases travelling to hospitals is the last resort because of insecurity, curfews, road blockages and fear of acts of violence.

“Insecurity has forced women to stay at home during their whole period of pregnancy, and they look for a doctor only when they are feeling really ill or feel, near to delivery time, that conditions have become too dangerous,” Youssif said.

The UN children’s agency UNICEF has said that Iraq’s maternal mortality rates have increased dramatically over the last 15 years. In 1989, 117 Iraqi mothers out of 100,000 died during pregnancy or childbirth. That ratio has now increased by 65 per cent.

According to Claire Hajaj, Communications Officer at UNICEF Iraq Support Centre in Amman (ISCA), the mortality rate in Iraq far outstrips that of its neighbours.

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