Iraq: A Depleted Generation
Photographs and text by J.B. Russell
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Like most institutions in Iraq, they are all named after Saddam Hussein. At Basrah’s Saddam Hussein Medical College Hospital, Dr. Jawad al-Ali described the difficulty the staff had in obtaining everything from consistent supplies of chemotherapy to simple antibiotics. He explained that they had a very good blood donation system, but they didn’t have the proper storage bags to keep the blood, so the hospital was nevertheless in constant shortage of blood for transfusions.

As he led me to the cancer wards, we stood in front of a bank of six elevators. Everyone was crowded in front of one door on the far end. Dr. Jawad noticed the curious look on my face and explained that they had to use the parts from five elevators to make one work because they couldn’t get elevator spare parts. All of this was blamed on the embargo. He said that even when items are approved by the UN, it is often months and years before suppliers are contracted and orders are delivered.
Further south, along the infamous "highway of death" where columns of retreating Iraqi tanks and military vehicles were destroyed by allied warplanes lie the villages of Zubair and Safwan. The desert around these hamlets are still littered with the remains of tanks, many of which are still radioactive. In the village of Safwan I met Nathum Mehsen and his family.

Nathum suffers from a horrible skin cancer most likely caused by the destruction of one of these tanks.

During the war Nathum was an infant.
Close to the family’s house a tank was struck by a missile and lay burning for several days, covering the area in thick black smoke. Several months later Nathum began having skin problems on his face and chest which progressed to a full-blown cancer that has disfigured the boy.

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