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Iraq: A War that Doesn't End

Posted on: Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Keywords: Iraq, Middle East

Eight months ago, the US officially announced the end of its military engagement in Iraq. Now, it is anxious to abandon its responsibility to the country.  Despite claims that the war is coming to a close, the brutal legacies of this nearly ten-year conflict rage.

MADRE and OWFI, our partner organization in Iraq, have begun to uncover the devastating impacts of the war on women and families in the town of Haweeja. The harsh aftermath of living in a war zone has already been well-documented in Fallujah.

Keep reading to learn about the crises in Fallujah and Haweeja, just two communities among many still reeling from the war, and what MADRE is doing to help.

Fallujah: a growing health crisis

The site of intense anti-insurgency fighting in 2004, Fallujah experienced extensive damage, casualties and displacement.

But the catastrophe did not stop there. Since 2004, families in Fallujah, as in Haweeja, have suffered alarming rates of cancers in children and birth defects, including missing limbs and severe brain damage.

The war decimated health care services throughout Iraq. The hospitals that remain are under-resourced and struggle to meet the overwhelming need. As a result, many Iraqis still lack access to essential care. In Fallujah, this has made the crisis even more debilitating for children and their families. 

Evidence is mounting that birth defects in Fallujah may have been caused by weaponry used in US attacks.

The US military admitted to using white phosphorous, a chemical weapon. The US is also suspected to have used depleted uranium, a highly toxic and radioactive metal, in its arsenal of weapons.

In fact, research has shown high levels of radiation and environmental contamination throughout Iraq.

Despite this evidence, the US and Iraqi governments have done little to address this growing health crisis. Now the US is withdrawing from Iraq. As the troops leave, and US commitment to the country wanes, it is the children, mothers and families of Iraq who suffer most.

Haweeja: the crisis spreads

The situation in Fallujah is well-documented. But in the impoverished town of Haweeja, a crisis is emerging—and the parallels are foreboding.

An alarming increase in birth defects and child cancers in Haweeja has worsened the suffering of an already strained community.

A young mother in Haweeja told us of her daughter, Mina. She cannot walk and is in constant pain. Through tears, her mother told us that the only time Mina looks at peace is when she is sleeping. Mina’s mother knows that without medical care or mobility devices, her daughter’s future is grim.

MADRE is working with OWFI to help meet the immediate health care needs of children like Mina by providing medicine, mobility equipment, counseling and more.

We are also searching for answers—for Mina and other children in similar or worse condition. Families point to a nearby munitions dump used by the US military. For years, US soldiers detonated ammunition and explosives in an open field just one mile from the center of town.

The US may be leaving Iraq, but MADRE will not abandon our sisters. At MADRE, we understand the long-lasting and devastating effects that war has on families and their communities. We know you do, too.

In Haweeja, we are prepared to fight with our sisters for the long haul. We will meet the immediate needs of mothers and their children. And we will work with OWFI to compile evidence of responsibility for these families’ needless suffering and demand accountability.

Learn more

Donate to support MADRE's work in Haweeja 


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