" Universal Community of Friends - In Iraqi Hospitals, Child War Casualties Mount
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In Iraqi Hospitals, Child War Casualties Mount

Thu April 3, 2003 12:30 PM ET
By Samia Nakhoul

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The moaning of Aisha Ahmed, eight, fills the hospital's emergency ward.

One of hundreds of child victims in the 15-day-old U.S.-led war in Iraq, she lost one eye and her face and body are peppered with wounds from what must have been a storm of shrapnel.

"Mummy! I want my mummy. Where is my mummy?" Aisha kept muttering. Yet neither the nurse nor the neighbor trying to comfort her dared to answer.

Her four-year-old brother Mohammad died and her mother and other brother were in critical condition undergoing surgery for head and chest injuries. Her father and two sisters were all badly injured and in another hospital.

A neighbor said he saw missiles crash into Radwaniyeh, a remote area near Baghdad's airport on Wednesday morning.

To their misfortune, they live in an area that -- apart from their farm -- has a presidential palace complex and military positions. A total of 12 children and six adults were struck.

U.S. war headquarters in Qatar said that a farm at Radwaniyeh doubled as a military "command and control facility." Washington says it seeks to minimize civilian casualties in its war to oust President Saddam Hussein.

Aisha was with her cousin and neighbors playing in the garden during a lull in the fighting when a missile struck, the neighbor said.

"We heard the planes and then the big explosion. We saw these houses in flames, and ran to rescue them and get them out from under the rubble. We did not expect them to hit civilians during a lull," the neighbor said.

MANY VICTIMS CHILDREN

Aisha lay with dry blood on her clothes and her moans turned to screams when nurses tried to lift her to the operating theater for head surgery.

Doctor Ahmed Abdel Amir said children were bound to make up a large number of casualties because they are such a big proportion of Iraq's 26 million population.

Another child, Mohammad Kazem, seven, lay in the next bed with serum tubes strapped to him. He was hit by shrapnel in the stomach when a missile crashed near his home west of Baghdad.

"He is so terrified now. He trembles when he hears explosions. I keep on trying to calm him down. I keep telling him that nothing will happen to him any more.

"Whenever he hears the thud of explosions he grabs me. I stay hugging him and patting him until the bombings stop," said his mother, Madiha Mohsen Ali, 40.

"He does not sleep or eat. The only question he keeps asking is: 'mummy when will this banging stop?" she added.

Such scenes have become part of daily life in Iraq since the U.S.-led war started with a fierce air attack and a ground invasion on March 20.

Since then, U.S. planes have flown thousands of sorties, destroying Iraq's military buildings, infrastructure and ministries and sometimes civilian homes.

Most said the war, in which Iraq said 1,250 civilians were killed and 5,000 wounded, was particularly hard on children.

Mohammad al-Jammal, six, was also screaming from his wounds. He too had been standing outside his house when a missile struck, killing two people and sending shrapnel into his stomach, opening it to the intestines.

He lay with his father and mother reading Koranic prayers for him. They said he would be all right because "God is looking after him."

Mothers at the hospital compare notes on their children's traumas. Many speak of their terrified children crying relentlessly, trembling when they hear the bombings. They say their children refuse to eat or sleep.

They say their children are bewildered and depressed. There is little for them to do to get through the day and many fear the night when the bombardment normally resumes.

 

CHECK THE IRAQI BODY COUNT DATABASE

Just Foreign Policy Iraqi Death Estimator


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