Almost One Year On…

March 5th, 2009

Regrettably, it’s been almost a year since the last update on here due to other work pressures.

During that time, the global economic crisis has taken a lot of attention away from Iraq.

In that time there has been some semblance of peace in Basra, according to media reports. But much basic infrastructure seems some time away from being restored and there’s still rubbish and sewage in the streets. There have been outbreaks of TB and cholera in the city.

I’ll find out more about the situation soon, in particular how the hospital and its doctors, nurses and patients are coping, and then update this site accordingly, perhaps with a view to raising further awareness in the media.

Basra on the brink…

April 6th, 2008

We raised €825 raised as a result of my article in The Tablet – sincere thanks to everyone for their kind support and generous donations.

All monies will be put towards the next consignment of badly needed medicines and supplies, which we will endeavour to send as soon as it is safe to do so.

In light of various media reports of ongoing fighting in Basra in recent weeks, the most recent report from the hospital we’re supporting is worrying to say the least.

There were curfews in Basra and no one was allowed to leave their homes late last week.

The hospital had a severe shortage of food and water and medicines, but no one there was allowed to venture outside either.

There were no ambulances or paramedics on duty in the city to collect the injured, who were lying in the streets and crying.

Heavy fighting was continuing and Basra airport and the streets around the city were all closed off.

More news as soon as I have it.

4Basra in the Big Issue

February 20th, 2008

A couple of things to mention before I post the article that the Big Issue recently featured on Basra.

Last year we raised a total of €3,100 (£2,345 at today’s exchange rate), so a big thank you to everyone who supported us and made a donation.

Secondly, I’ll be writing a report on the situation in Basra for The Tablet, which will be published next month, to coincide with the 5th anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq.

We hope to generate further publicity during the month.

Finally, below is the piece that featured in the Big Issue, kindly written by journalist Rebecca Thomson. (The headline is by me, as I haven’t seen the actual published article.)

Depleted uranium: Iraq’s Toxic Legacy

By Rebecca Thomson

Depleted uranium weapons have been the subject of controversy for years, but the effects they are currently having in Iraq make the case for banning them more pronounced than ever.

Professor Siegwart Horst Gunther, a German doctor who worked in Iraq for four decades, made a recent return to the country and found shockingly high rates of cancer and birth defects among children.

He, along with film-maker Frieder Wagner, and scientists Ted Weymann and Professor Asaf Durakovic, made a film documenting the appalling effects depleted uranium has on people living in war-torn countries, as well as the soldiers who fought in them.

The substance has a half life of 4.5 billion years making the countries involved permanently contaminated. It is a by-product of the nuclear fuel making process and is difficult and expensive to store, but once made into weapons, its devastating effects give its protagonists a huge military advantage.

Western governments oscillate between pretending they don’t use it, and saying radiation levels coming from the weapons are too low to have adverse health effects.

But doctors in Basra report that ten times as many patients are dying of cancer related diseases than before the 1991 Gulf War, while the number of babies born with birth defects is 20 times higher.

Thousands of soldiers who fought in the Gulf War, in the Balkans conflict, and in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, have suffered symptoms synonymous with uranium poisoning, but US and UK governments refuse to acknowledge that their weapons caused these illnesses.

The UN has raised questions about the legality and safety of depleted uranium, while the European Parliament has repeatedly passed resolutions requesting an immediate moratorium on further use of the weapons, which have been blocked by the UK and France.

The American government and its allies continue to risk the lives of their own military personnel, causing devastating health problems for the countries they attack, despite knowing about the risks associated with the weapons.

Fighting the effects of depleted uranium is increasingly difficult for doctors and nurses in Iraq. The enormous difficulties they face were shown in a recent Medact report, which highlighted severe shortcomings in the reconstruction of Iraq’s health system.

The occupying powers are failing to protect doctors and nurses, the report says, meaning many of those who have escaped being killed or kidnapped are leaving the country.

In addition, 40 per cent of the 900 essential drugs are out of stock in hospitals – especially higher-cost medicines such as those for childhood leukaemia.

Against this catastrophic backdrop, NGOs and charities are working hard to provide hope to the people that remain in Iraq. The Aladin’s Magic Lantern Project is one of them, raising £395,000 a year to run a children’s and maternity hospital in Basra.
The people in Iraq are facing an increasingly desperate situation and the importance of projects like this one is becoming clearer as the effects of the humanitarian disaster in the country continue to grow.

Merry Christmas…4Basra has raised €1,600

December 24th, 2007

Merry Christmas from 4Basra and thank you so much to everyone who has helped and supported us this year.

In the past six weeks or so, with the help of Nicholas Wood, Dr Chris Burns-Cox, the guys at Media Lens, and thanks to donations from a number of doctors in the UK and Ireland and a number of my own contacts, we have raised €1,600. This brings the total raised in 2007 to €2,700.

Although this is a tiny fraction of the total amount of money needed to buy medicines and supplies every year for the hospital (about €250,000), every little is very much appreciated and badly needed.

We hope to add to this in the New Year with further efforts.

Doctors in Basra still face danger every day

If you saw BBC”s Panorama report from Basra earlier this month, or read recent reports in The Guardian or , you”ll know that doctors in Basra still face incredibly .

In the past six months, 48 women have been killed in the city and doctors are kidnapped for ransoms of up to US$20,000 at a time.

This is still a city living in fear, where the future is uncertain and doctors and nurses face unspeakable dangers and unimaginable risks every day.

Spare a thought for them during this time.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Help a good cause, win a case of Irish whiskey

November 14th, 2007

Please click here!

Thanks to David at Irish Whiskey Notes.

And thanks to Stephen Teeling and David Horgan at Cooley Whiskey for your kind donation.

I’m also very grateful to a number of people in the UK who are helping me as we try to gather some further support.

I should also thank Terence at the Irish Medical Times, for publishing my letter,

Damien Mulley for publishing my guest post, and Senator David Norris for his kind donation.

More details soon.