Archive for May, 2006

C4 Dispatches ‘Iraq: The Women’s Story’

Wednesday, May 10th, 2006

UK TV’s Channel 4 recently broadcast a documentary in their Dispatches series about women in Iraq. There’s an interesting website, including a timeline of Iraqi women’s rights.

Here’s the blurb:

The invasion of Iraq heralded promises of freedom from tyranny and equal rights for the women of Iraq. But three years on, the reality of everyday life for women inside Iraq is a different story. To make this film, two Iraqi women risk their lives to spend three months travelling all over the country with a camera to record the lives and experiences of women they meet. Dispatches: Iraq: The Women’s Story provides a compelling account of a life inside Iraq that is rarely seen on news bulletins: stories of ordinary women whose struggle to survive has only worsened since the war.

Iraqi mothers and newborns suffer health collapse

Wednesday, May 10th, 2006

Save the Children has just published its annual State of the World’s Mothers report.

The report emphasises the low financial cost of many improvements to maternal and neonate health, and the success of many developing countries in improving survival rates. But it also reports the disastrous effects of conflict, citing today’s Iraq as an example:

In Iraq, years of conflict and international sanctions have damaged the health system and taken a serious toll on the well-being of mothers and babies. Maternal mortality has more than doubled, rising from 117 deaths per 100,000 live births in the late 1980s to the current 250. Infant and child mortality have also risen sharply. The current war has disrupted food distribution and damaged electrical, water and sewage systems, creating even more difficult conditions.

With newborn mortality at 59/1000, Iraq now has the highest newborn death rate of any middle income country, and the 4th highest of any country, equal with Sierra Leone. Only in Afghanistan and Liberia are more newborn babies lost.

Almost a quarter of Iraqi mothers receive no prenatal care, and there are no skilled personnel present at 28% of births.

Only 10% of Iraqi women are using modern contraceptives, compared to 28% in Syria and 41% in Jordan. As Save the Children writes, ‘Effective use of family planning methods can help save the lives of mothers and babies by enabling women to avoid pregnancy when they are too young or too old, and to space their births at intervals that are healthy for them and their babies.’

These figures illustrate why civilian death estimates such as Iraq Body Count show only a limited part of the picture. Iraq Body Count does a great job of counting civilian deaths attributable to the conflict which are reported in the media. However, the childbed deaths of mothers and babies rarely if ever feature in news reports, however preventable they are. Rising maternal and infant death rates are included in the ‘Lancet Report’, which is one of the reasons why its civilian mortality estimate is so much higher.

Playing blind

Monday, May 8th, 2006

Long-time IAG friend Colin Rowat has just written an interesting article in the (Lebanese) Daily Star, attempting to interpret Iraqi politics by means of game theory.

According to Colin, one of the reasons for political stalemates in Iraq is a lack of information. No politician yet knows the strengths of the parties and positions, so they can’t bargain effectively. In particular, the lack of good information makes political actors believe themselves to be stronger than they really are. The perception of widespread electoral fraud lets the losers believe that they could have won in a fair election.

What’s the solution? Colin talks about how elections improve bargaining by giving solid information on who is popular. For some reason he doesn’t talk about the more usual ways of spreading information: by media, by independent research from academics, government and NGOs, through opinion polls. Maybe even sites like this can provide a little help from the sidelines.