Vulnerability in an interdependent world (Iraq)
Progress and wellbeing in countries and their populations are very vulnerable in a complex and interrelated world such as ours. Number 16 of the SDO-2030 (Peace, justice and solid institutions) says: “Without peace, stability, human rights and effective governability based on the rule of law, it is not possible to achieve sustainable development. […] High levels of armed violence and insecurity have destructive consequences for a country’s development, affect economic growth and often lead to deep-rooted grievances which may last over generations.” This was the case in Iraq during the el period of economic sanctions imposed by the Security Council between 1990 (after the invasion of Kuwait) and the war of 2003. In a document from 1998, The Human Rights Commission of the United Nations stated that the economic embargo imposed on Iraq “[…] constitutes a clear violation of the economic, social and cultural rights of the people as well as violating international law.”
The mother and daughter in the photo are crossing the Shuhada Bridge over the River Tigris, in Baghdad (Iraq), two weeks before the beginning of the invasion of the country. Both had a difference of life expectancy of almost 10 years but –not what you would expect- in favour of the mother. Life expectancy at birth in Iraq fell from 66 years in 1989 to 57 in 1994, nine years in the first five years of sanctions. This drop was mainly due to the spectacular increase in infant mortality which increased from 48 deaths per thousand in under 5s in 1990 to 122 in 1997 (40,000 more deaths a year). The causes of death were mainly respiratory infections and diarrhoea combined with malnutrition, as well as those resulting from the dismantling of the public vaccination system. Likewise, between 1989 and 1999 maternal mortality rate increased 2.5fold due to malnutrition, chronic anaemia and limited obstetric resources. All of this according to United Nations data.
This deterioration is only comparable in intensity and speed to that caused by AIDS/HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa, the economic collapse of the USSR and Eastern Europe, and the current war in Syria.
Carlos Varea. Bio anthropologist, Universiad Autónoma de Madrid