Thursday, April 12, 2007

The ICRC explains it all

The International Committee of the Red Cross released a report on the humanitarian situation in Iraq yesterday.

Eight of the most heartbreakingly depressing pages I have ever endured - and I read the entire Lancet study. It isn’t even that it tells us anything we didn’t already know. It’s that it puts it all in a common box and stamps it with an unimpeachable seal of damning veracity. You doubt the findings of the ICRC like you doubt the witness account of a stationwagon full of nuns.

So what is confirmed by the report? (Besides pretty much everything, I mean.)

That virtually every Iraqi has been adversely affected by the violence that has gripped the country. This violence has ratcheted up in the wake of the Sammara mosque bombing in February 2006. Civilians comprise the bulk of the victims and the poor security conditions have disrupted the livelihoods, and the live, of millions of Iraqis.

Dozens die daily, and scores more are wounded as seemingly random bombings and sniper attacks in marketplaces, targeted abductions, sectarian attacks, assassinations and murders, and all form of violence sweep the country. Then there are the victims caught in the crossfire of warring factions.

Approximately two million Iraqi’s have been internally displaced, scattered throughout the countryside and taking shelter with friends and relatives who are ill equipped to take in those who have fled, but do anyway. Those who have no one to take shelter with, and who lack the resources to flee the country make up a growing population of squatters who move into abandoned buildings and the homes abandoned by those who have fled.

Food shortages are becoming more prevalent. Hunger is on the increase and the incidence of malnutrition among the population has spiked upward. Infrastructure is in shambles, and the lack of potable water is nearly at crisis levels in some areas. Untreated sewage and the lack of fresh water is a bellwether for a coming epidemic of communicable disease that, if it were to happen, could be the straw the breaks the camels back, so to speak, and just finishes off the remaining vestiges of a former near-first-world society.

As violence has increased steadily, the healthcare system has been stretched to the limit. Mass casualties occur daily. Sick and injured Iraqis avoid seeking healthcare because the facilities, those who utilize them and the professional medical staff are often targets of violence designed to spread terror. Medical supplies are a precious commodity, especially in a lawless state and a bandit culture. A hospital director in Baghdad told the ICRC that poor security conditions were preventing staff from providing medical services. Checkpoints and roadblocks keep doctors and patients from reaching one another in time

Fully half of the nation’s healthcare providers have fled the country in the wake of kidnappings and murders of their colleagues. Those who remain and are still practicing are the bravest patriots in Iraq, without a doubt. I’m don’t think I am worthy of calling them my professional colleagues. I have never sacrificed like that to work a trauma, and I have never dealt with a mass casualty that wasn’t a drill.

The failure to observe the sanctity of medical personnel in this conflict is especially heinous and troubling. Attacking the helping professionals belies a pathological and depraved desire to rend the very fabric of society itself to tatters.

It’s a hell of a mess that they made, isn’t it? Sucked the ‘civil’ right out of the cradle of civilization, they did.

Heckuva job…

No comments: