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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 April 2006, 16:55 GMT 17:55 UK
Basra child mortality 'is rising'
British soldier on patrol in Basra
The mainly Shia city of Basra is patrolled by British soldiers
A European aid agency has reported a rise in child mortality in the southern Iraqi city of Basra where hospital care is said to be in crisis.

Water-borne diseases and scarce medical supplies mean infants born in Basra are subject to abnormally high mortality rates, Saving Children from War said.

One Basra doctor said child mortality had risen by 30% since the invasion.

A US military internal report has described the overall situation in Basra as "serious".

The report defines "serious" as meaning an area:

  • with "a government that is not fully formed or cannot serve the needs of its residents"

  • where economic development is stagnant and unemployment is high

  • where the security situation is marked by routine violence, assassinations and extremism

The US report notes that Basra sees a "high level of militia activity including infiltration of local security forces", while smuggling and crime continue unabated and "intimidation attacks and assassination" are common.

'Daily deaths'

Saving Children from War (SCW) spokeswoman Marie Fernandez said Basra hospitals had been without IV fluids for weeks, the humanitarian news agency Irin reported.

Children are dying daily, and no one is doing anything to help them
Dr Haydar Salah,
Basra paediatrician

"As a consequence, many children, mainly under five years old, died after suffering from extreme cases of diarrhoea," she said.

Local hospitals lacked ventilators to help prematurely born babies breathe and, with a nurse shortage, "hospitals often must allow family members to care for patients".

Local doctors quoted by SCW said the health situation had deteriorated markedly since the US-led invasion in 2003.

"The mortality of children in Basra has increased by nearly 30% compared to the Saddam Hussein era," said Dr Haydar Salah, a paediatrician at the Basra Children's Hospital.

"Children are dying daily, and no one is doing anything to help them."

For the past three years, the Maternity and Children's' hospital in Basra has not received any cancer drugs from the health ministry, Ms Fernandez said.

When aid workers approach the government, they are told no funds are available, according to Iraqi NGO Keeping Children Alive.

"They tell us we must wait for investment, which could take months," said spokesman Khalid Alaa.

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