The Good News: Ross (Caputi, founder of the Justice of Fallujah Project) made his Kickstarter goal, so he will be able to complete his documentary “Fear Not the Path of Truth: A Fallujah Veteran’s documentary”. This is really good news for anyone who cares about justice for the babies of Fallujah, as he plans to distribute the documentary for free to both raise awareness of the situation in Fallujah, and hopefully through that, we will be able to raise funds for the babies. Awareness has to come first, as I’ve written over and over on these pages. I so admire Ross’ dedication to this cause, and I celebrate his small victory towards his goals.
The Unbelievable News: Last month the Ministry of Health of Iraq released a summary report on a long awaited study on the prevalence of congenital birth defects in Iraq. The study, co-funded by the Iraqi Government and the World Health Organization, was based on a 2012 survey of mothers in 10 800 households from 18 Iraqi districts and basically involved going door to door to ask mothers about details of spontaneous abortions, stillbirths, and births with congenital defects since the 1980s. According to the summary posted on the WHO’s website, the study found “no clear evidence to suggest an unusually high rate of congenital birth defects in Iraq”. They only looked at the medical files of 32% of the total reported cases. This unsigned report was released quietly, with no fanfare or press. And seemed to contradict previous statements by the Ministry of Health that the study would show damming evidence that there has been a dramatic increase in birth defects in Iraq.
The Hopeful News: The respected British peer-reviewed general medical journal The Lancet just published an article critiquing the WHO and the Iraqi Government study, noting that many experts are questioning its methodology and peer review. The Lancet article is one of several pieces critical of the summary report (see here here here). And it raises some of the questions I had when I first read it…why weren’t the doctors who are dealing with the crisis surveyed? From the Lancet article:
“Samira Alaani, a paediatrician in Fallujah, Iraq, who copublished a 2011 study utilising hospital records to conclude that congenital malformations accounted for 15% of all births in Fallujah since 2003, says the new study cofunded by WHO and the Iraqi Government should have employed hospital records more comprehensively.
“Muhsin Al-Sabbak of the Basrah Medical School in Basrah, Iraq, who copublished a 2012 study reporting a 17-fold increase in birth defects in the Al Basrah Maternity Hospital since 1994, warns that the data from Basrah in the new study does not match local hospital records.”
“Alison Alborz is a specialist on learning disabilities in children at the University of Manchester, UK, who published a 2013 studypresenting data from a 2010 survey of 6032 households in four Iraqi governates including data for more than 10 000 children and young people showing a prevalence of congenital birth defects more than 2·5 times higher than reported in the Iraqi Government study. She says the new report gives little information about sampling and does not offer any discussion of whether the districts chosen for analysis “reflect the characteristics of the governorate as a whole”.
“Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, a toxicologist based in Michigan, USA, who coauthored the Alaani and Al-Sabbak studies, agrees with Alborz that the selection criteria determined by the MOH are not sufficiently explained. “Based on information available in this report, we cannot rule out selection bias issues”, she warns. She also questions the decision not to employ hospital records more comprehensively, and notes that the report suffers from a lack of detail regarding ‘which areas were exposed to bombardment or heavy fighting and which areas were not. The exposed and unexposed populations remain unidentified throughout’.”
I’ve exchanged emails with all of these caring and dedicated doctors and I trust them WAY more than that report. My hope is that their voices are taken seriously. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be Dr. Alaani, the pediatrician who works at Fallujah General Hospital and who deals with cases like these, day in and day out:
So what can we do? Organize a showing of the documentary, preferably for Remember Fallujah Week, November 18 – 24 (the 9th anniversary of the second battle of Fallujah) . Think of ways that we can raise money for Dr. Alaani. Spread the word about Fallujah and the babies. Share my blog…care.