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Monday, 26 February, 2001, 00:34 GMT
Eyewitness: Bitter legacy of sanctions
Funeral inIraq
These mothers say sanctions killed their children
By Ben Brown in Baghdad

Saddam Hussein brought sanctions upon his country - but it is not him who is suffering. Instead, the Iraqi people are paying the price from the cradle to the grave.

In Iraq's hospitals, doctors say there are frequent power cuts and only rudimentary equipment because of sanctions.

Many babies are severely malnourished and of every 1,000 babies born, 108 will die before their first birthday.

Iraqi baby
Infant mortality rates are high in Iraq
Paediatrician Dr Abdullah Hamzawi showed me one baby in his run-down ward. "She weighs only 40% of the weight she is supposed to be," he said.

"Such babies carry the risk of 50% mortality. Fifty per cent she may die. I just ask why should this happen," he adds.

Back in time

Ten years after sanctions were first imposed, Iraq is being driven further and further back in time.

This oil-rich nation is becoming more and more under-developed.

Iraqi boy
"I have to sell cigarettes to keep my family alive," says one boy
Even for babies lucky enough to leave hospital, the prospects are a life of poverty and misery.

In Iraq, education used to be a priority, but under sanctions and Saddam, it comes second to survival.

One 14-year-old boy I met sells cigarettes to support his family. Like about half of Iraq's children, he's dropped out of school.

"My father is old, my mother can't work and my brother is a conscript. I have to sell cigarettes to keep my family alive," he said.

If you do make it through school and on to university, you might wonder whether it's worth it. Forget the internet, books from the 1970s and 80s may be your latest works of reference.

Brain drain

Although there is a brain drain from Iraq, some students are staying.

Street booksale
Outdated books end up for sale on the streets
"Here education is free, so I think it's my turn to pay back, says one young woman. "I'd stay here and I'd serve my country."

But in Iraq's blockaded economy, teachers and civil servants, for example, earn around 50p a week. Out on the streets, many choose to sell their books to supplement their income.

What is the point of graduating, some feel, if you end up at an auction house, selling off your most treasured possessions just to make ends meet?

Recently, the United Nations have eased their blockade and would lift it entirely if Saddam Hussein would comply with their demands.

But for now, those with nothing left to sell have one last choice - to beg.

A decade on, this is still the agony of sanctions, from birth until death.

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