Expecting Iraqi Mothers Rush to Give Birth Before War
The International News
Wednesday 19 march 2003
The sound of screaming filled the maternity ward at the Elwiyah Hospital on Tuesday, as women rushed to give birth ahead of an impending US invasion.
Many pregnant women demanded to have caesareans rather than risk delivering their babies during war, even though they were sometimes well short of their natural due date.
"I am so relieved," said Intizar Mohsen, 28, after the birth of her premature son, Mohammad. "Thank God I had the baby before the invasion," she said as her tiny baby was placed in an incubator.
A sense of foreboding hung over the dilapidated hospital with patients expecting US President George W Bush to order an attack on Iraq before the end of the week in a bid to oust President Saddam Hussein.
"This life is horrible. Bush wants to attack. I am worried that war will break out and I won't be able to have my baby on time," said Maysaloun Kazem, 35, tears streaming down her face.
"I just want to deliver my baby and have him next to me. I don't want anything else," she said.
Medical staff said families recalled the 1991 Gulf War when some women could not reach hospital because of coalition bombing raids and died during delivery or else lost their babies.
"They are demanding caesareans. They want to have their babies delivered as soon as possible. They want to have them born and take them home before war," Dr Kholoud Younes, director of the maternity ward told Reuters. "Many had their babies at seven months. They fear there will be curfews, that roads, water and electricity will be cut and that the birth of their babies will become impossible."
Hardworking doctors said that they were trying to induce women rather than give them caesareans, but after years of economic sanctions, there was no anaesthetic for epidural injections, meaning patients faced agonising, draining deliveries. "I spent three days in labour. I couldn't help it. I kept thinking that the bombing was going to start," said 30-year-old Amal Mansour, looking faint as she nursed her newborn son, Ali.
"I was terrified that the war would start and that something would happen to the baby," she added. Younes said even those women who had reached the natural end of their pregnancies were taking longer to give birth because of fear and stress.
Small, premature infants were placed in old incubators and nurses struggled to convince overwrought mothers not to take their newborns home. "The infants will stay here. We just ask God to have mercy on them and us. We're staying with them," Younes said.
Most of the doctors have decided to stay at the hospital, saying they fear that if they go home they will not be able to make it back to work once the war starts.
The hospital is extremely primitive by modern standards. There are no sheets on the iron beds. Equipment is ageing, wards are ramshackle and medicines in short supply. "Why does Bush want to kill us and wage war on us?" said Hanaa Mehdi, 32, who had just given birth to a boy. "I am frightened of this war. I don't know where to go with the baby. I will die if something happens to him."
Annan: Civilians Must Be Protected
Thursday 20 March 2003
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has reminded the United States and Britain of their legal duty to protect Iraqi civilians in what he called the imminent disaster of war.
"Under international law, the responsibility for protecting civilians in conflict falls on the belligerents," he told an open meeting of the UN Security Council.
"In any area under military occupation, responsibility for the welfare of the population falls on the occupying power."
The meeting was held as the hours ticked down to the deadline set by US President George W. Bush for Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to leave his country or face military action.
(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)