Sign the petition calling for WHO to make Iraq's birth defect data public
What’s the story?
The BBC has reported that a nationwide study into rates of congenital birth defects across Iraq, which was undertaken by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Iraqi Ministry of Health (MoH) will make a link between areas subject to heavy fighting in 2003 and higher rates. This will confirm reports from doctors and hospitals across Iraq, but most notably in Fallujah, of a serious health crisis. However publication of the results is now long overdue.
Why haven’t the findings been published?
Doctors and campaigners are worried that the highly political nature of the findings are causing the WHO and MoH to delay publication. The WHO has repeatedly changed its position, introducing more and more hurdles to publication, as international interest in the study has increased.
What are you doing about it?
Dr Samira Alaani, a paediatrician at Fallujah General Hospital has started a Change.org petition calling for the data to be published in an open access journal. The petition is supported by several NGOs with an interest in conflict and civilian protection.
Why an open access journal?
Publication in an open access journal, such as PLoS One, would mean that the data would be scrutinised and peer reviewed independently of the WHO, it would also be reviewed far more quickly. The process would help build public trust in the data and findings and reduce the risk of political influence from the WHO’s member states.
What’s the rush?
The Iraqi people have been waiting for more than 10 years for international assistance in researching these health problems, which first emerged after the 1991 Gulf War. Even with this data, further research will be needed to identify causes of the health problems, in the meantime Iraqi women will have to live with the knowledge that environmental exposures during their pregnancies may lead to their children suffering serious health problems.
What can people do about it?
The only way to ensure that the Iraqi people get the answers they need is to support the petition and put pressure on the Iraqi MoH and WHO to make the process of peer review as open and transparent as possible.