At Baghdad's Central Teaching Hospital for Children, gallons of raw sewage wash across the floors. The drinking water is contaminated. According to doctors, 80 percent of patients leave with infections they did not have when they arrived.
To be sure, Iraq's hospitals were in bleak shape before the American-led invasion last year. International isolation and the sanctions imposed after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 had already shattered a public health care system that was once the jewel of the Middle East. Crucial machines stopped working. Drugs were in short supply.
Conditions eased a bit once the United Nations oil-for-food program started in 1996, but the country still suffered, especially the children.
But Iraqi doctors say the war has pushed them closer to disaster. Fighting and sabotage have destroyed crucial infrastructure and the fall of Saddam Hussein precipitated a breakdown in social order.
"It's definitely worse now than before the war," said Eman Asim, the Ministry of Health official who oversees the country's 185 public hospitals. "Even at the height of sanctions, when things were miserable, it wasn't as bad as this. At least then someone was in control."
Best New Blog finalist - 2003 Koufax Awards
A non-violent, counter-dominant, left-liberal, possibly charismatic, quasi anarcho-libertarian Quaker's take on politics, volleyball, and other esoterica.
Lo alecha ha-m'lacha ligmor, v'lo atah ben chorin l'hibateyl mimenah.