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Too Many babies Without Eyes

extracted from the Dutch Journal of Medical Science, May 2001

Mohammed A. Salman, an eye surgeon from Baghdad has reported via the internet on  the phenomenon of anophtalmos: babies who have been born with only one eye or who  are missing both eyes. This is a rare anomaly, which normally exists in 1 out of 50 million  births.  The Iraqi eye doctor however, has reported 9 cases in 2 years; 8 babies missing  both eyes. The Flemish eye doctor, Edward De Sutter from the Groeninghe Hospital in Kortrijk picked  up the message from the internet and started a scientific discussion with Salman by email. 

Following critical and unbelieving questions from De Sutter, Salman proposed that De  Sutter should go and look for himself. De Sutter accepted the invitation and went to Iraq  together with two other colleagues, also eye doctors. What he saw in Iraq was horrible as  he wrote in the Flemish Daily ‘De Standaard’ (5 May 2001). De Sutter examined a number  of children for himself who had been born without eyes, but also saw pictures of children  with grotesque anomalies, such as the start of one eye in the middle of the face - the so- called cyclops. His colleague Roland Bonneux examined children with a missing crown to  the skull who were being kept alive in an incubator. It is not so much the presence of  anomalies per se that is so bewildering, but the sheer number of them, says De Sutter. Out  of every 4000 births there are 20 with such anomalies. “Iraq seems to be a scientific  curiosity”. 

The cause is evident according to Salman:  Seven of the eight babies missing both eyes  had fathers who were exposed to US anti tank weapons during the US attack on Iraq in  1991, where depleted uranium was used.  According to the US official point of view, the  radioactive particles released by the use of such weapons, pose no danger to health, but  various groups, amongst them participants of conflicts in Kosov@ in 1999 - dispute this. Leaving all political sensitivities aside, it was clear to De Sutter that Salman needs help. Not  only concrete aid in the form of medicines and materials, but also in the field of scientific  knowledge and support. Taken from a web page of the Association of Eye Doctors in  Flanders -