Iraq: War’s legacy of cancer

Two US-led wars in Iraq have left behind hundreds of tons of depleted uranium munitions and other toxic wastes.

Bombsites like this one in Fallujah remain toxic and likely continue to cause illnesses (Dahr Jamail/Al Jazeera)

This report contains photos of a graphic nature.

Fallujah, Iraq – Contamination from Depleted Uranium (DU) munitions and other military-related pollution is suspected of causing a sharp rises in congenital birth defects, cancer cases, and other illnesses throughout much of Iraq.

Many prominent doctors and scientists contend that DU contamination is also connected to the recent emergence of diseases that were not previously seen in Iraq, such as new illnesses in the kidney, lungs, and liver, as well as total immune system collapse. DU contamination may also be connected to the steep rise in leukaemia, renal, and anaemia cases, especially among children, being reported throughout many Iraqi governorates.

There has also been a dramatic jump in miscarriages and premature births among Iraqi women, particularly in areas where heavy US military operations occurred, such as Fallujah.

Official Iraqi government statistics show that, prior to the outbreak of the First Gulf War in 1991, the rate of cancer cases in Iraq was 40 out of 100,000 people. By 1995, it had increased to 800 out of 100,000 people, and, by 2005, it had doubled to at least 1,600 out of 100,000 people. Current estimates show the increasing trend continuing.

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IDP’s finding little refuge in Iraq

More than one million displaced Iraqis continue to languish without government aid.

Haifa Abdul Majid, one of more than one million Internally Displaced Iraqis, has been living in extreme poverty for more than five years without any assistance from the Iraqi government (Dahr Jamail/Al Jazeera)

Baghdad – The first thing Haifa Abdul Majid did after being told I wanted to speak with her about her experience as a refugee in her own country was to, incredibly, express her gratitude for the fact that she has food.

“First I thank God because we are finding some food and can eat, unlike many other countries where people cannot even find food,” the 55-year-old grandmother said while holding her arms to the sky in thanks.

But the reality of her situation was quickly evidenced by her inability to offer the usual large repertoire of sweets, cookies, and other welcoming treats for guests, as is the usual custom in Iraq.

Instead of the aforementioned, she offered a glass of water.

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Human Rights for US Disabled?

While the US has historically led in disability rights, critical barriers remain.

Human rights for US disabled

The struggle for disability rights has been one spanning decades in the United States, and it is ongoing (GALLO/GETTY)

More than one billion people, or approximately 15 per cent of the world’s total population, live with some form of disability.

Often referred to as “the world’s largest minority”, persons with disabilities are accustomed to facing barriers to their participating in almost every aspect of society.

“In the case of disability, we’ve had to spend all our time and energy determining who is a member of the club, rather than if they are being discriminated against,” Joelle Brouner, Executive Director of the Washington State Rehabilitation Council told Al Jazeera.

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2012: A Year of Human Rights Challenges

As Human Rights violations continue around the world, will 2013 be a better year?

The Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya is home to roughly one million inhabitants and is considered one of the largest slums in Africa (GALLO/GETTY)

International Human Rights day is celebrated on December 10, but from a human rights perspective, 2012 has been more of a year to learn from than one to celebrate.

Human Rights Day was chosen to honour the UN General Assembly’s adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, on December 10, 1948, which was the first global enunciation of human rights.

Yet, for most of the years since then, the reality has been quite different than the Human Rights ideals set more than 60 years ago.

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