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Iraq: Cancer

Volume 699: debated on Wednesday 20 February 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their assessment of reports that since the 1990–91 Gulf War there has been a significant increase in the incidence and severity of cancer and foetal abnormality in southern Iraq; and [HL1682]

Whether they will facilitate an independent epidemiological study of the incidence and prevalence of cancer and foetal abnormality in southern Iraq since the 1990–91 Gulf War. [HL1683]

The Government are aware of reports of high rates of cancer and foetal abnormalities in recent years in Iraq. However, due to the security situation and consequent constraints on access by aid agencies to affected populations, there are currently no independent, reliable data on this.

The Department for International Development (DfID) does not currently regard an epidemiological study as a priority for our work in Iraq. We are focusing our efforts on meeting urgent humanitarian needs, including in the field of health. For example, we are supporting the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which is providing urgently needed medical supplies, such as war wounded kits to hospitals dealing with mass casualties, and improving health facilities (physical rehabilitation and training for staff). We are also supporting the United National High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), which is helping healthcare services in Syria and Jordan to cope with the influx of Iraqi refugees. As part of this support, Iraqis are receiving treatment for cancer in Syrian hospitals. The British Council and Department of Health are also building the capacity of the Iraqi health sector by training Iraqi doctors. So far 50 doctors have been trained and another 25 have been sent to the UK for two months.