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War-wounded civilians are the focus of this article. Iraq's health care system, already weakened before the devastating 2003 invasion, now has to cope with a relentless stream of daily bomb blasts and shootings.

Official indifference (by the nations which invaded Iraq) to the welfare of living victims persists.

Heartbreaking details

Some of the most horrific scenes followed coalition air raids in and around Hillah, where, in the first days of April, the Red Cross reported dozens of civilians killed and more than 450 wounded by aerial bombardment, including by suspected cluster bombs.1

Robert Fisk was among the Western journalists to visit the local hospital and report on the aftermath:

Heartbreaking is the only word to describe 10-year-old Maryam Nasr and her five-year-old sister Hoda. Maryam has a patch over her right eye where a piece of bomblet embedded itself. She also had wounds to the stomach and thighs. I didn't realise that Hoda, standing by her sister's bed, was wounded until her mother carefully lifted the little girl’s scarf and long hair to show a deep puncture in the right side of her head, just above her ear, congealed blood sticking to her hair but the wound still gently bleeding. Their mother described how she had been inside her home and heard an explosion and found her daughters lying in their own blood near the door. The little girls alternately smiled and hid when I took their pictures. In other wards, the hideously wounded would try to laugh, to show their bravery. It was a humbling experience.2

1 Cluster bombs liberate Iraqi children Pepe Escobar, Asia Times Online, 4 Apr 2003.

2 Wailing children, the wounded, the dead: victims of the day cluster bombs rained on Babylon Robert Fisk, Independent, 3 April 2003. IBC record x030

3 Civilian Deaths Michael Weisskopf, Time Magazine, 3 May 2003. IBC record x072

4 Unexploded ordnance continues to kill Iraqi children UNICEF, 17 Jul 2003.

5 'Run or you will die.' The soldiers did not go and they died... Jason Burke, The Guardian, 26 Jun 2003. IBC record x100

6Iraq: Daily Bulletin ICRC, 6 Apr 2003.

Futher injuries are, of course, being sustained after the cessation of bombing, by unexploded munitions, many fired by US or UK forces:

Karbala is typical. At al-Hussein hospital, 35 bodies have been brought in since the city fell April 6, many dismembered by a cluster-bomblet blast, according to chief surgeon Ali Iziz Ali. An additional 50 have been treated for fractures and deep, narrow puncture wounds, typical of the weapons. Karbala civil-defense chief Abdul Kareem Mussan says his men are harvesting about 1,000 cluster bombs a day in places Myers said were not targets.3

UNICEF has recently reported that more than 1,000 children have been injured by unexploded ordnance since the end of the war, including by cluster bombs (and now unguarded) Iraqi munitions, and emphasized that “the coalition forces have a clear obligation under humanitarian law to remove these dangers from communities.”4

Despite “major hostilities” having been declared over, Iraqi civilians are still regularly being shot and injured by American and British troops. This incident in Majar-al-Kabir is just one of literally scores of similar incidents all over Iraq, notable only in that this time British troops were involved:

Most agree that a local man, possibly a former Ba'ath party official, started shooting with a handgun. The British then opened fire. “It was about 10.15 and the market was very crowded,” said Mr Younis. “I threw myself on the ground and shouted to everybody to run away or get down. The shooting lasted for about five minutes but there were bullets going everywhere. They were firing on automatic.” ….At least 17 people were hit. They included a 13-year-old girl caught by a ricochet in the shoulder and a nine-year-old boy. Several other casualties have spinal injuries and multiple fractures. In all, five men died from their wounds…. As the wounded lay in the bazaar the British soldiers drove away.5

"But due to the lack of time and sutures, the limbs after being amputated were sewn up very basically and bandaged. 'They are re-opening the bandages and trying to stitch the wounds up properly.'" Dr Jemilah Mahmood of Mercy Malaysia, who brought much-needed supplies to the hospital and suffered a bullet wound in the process. Reported in "'Biting the bullet' for Iraqis," The Star Online, 18 Apr 2003.

And sometimes, like these descriptive on-the-scene reports, even anonymous statistics provide shocking glimpses of the war’s toll of pain, horror and long-term suffering:

The Red Cross reported from Baghdad that during its heaviest fighting the city’s hospitals were so overwhelmed by admissions that no one could any longer keep an accurate count, but that one major hospital alone had been admitting the war-wounded at a rate of about 100 patients an hour.6 And in one of the most heart-rending of statistics, another aid organization reported just a month into the war that a hospital, situated in one of the poorest parts of Baghdad, “had amputated more than 100 limbs of children in that one month.” (See Note.)