FALLUJAH, Mar 26 (IPS) – Iraqi doctors in al-Anbar province warn of a new disease they call “Blackwater” that threatens the lives of thousands. The disease is named after Blackwater Worldwide, the U.S. mercenary company operating in Iraq.
“This disease is a severe form of malarial infection caused by the parasite plasmodium falciparum, which is considered the worst type of malarial infection,” Dr. Ali Hakki from Fallujah told IPS. “It is one of the complications of that infection, and not the ordinary picture of the disease. Because of its frequent and severe complications, such as Blackwater fever, and its resistance to treatment, P. falciparum can cause death within 24 hours.”
What Iraqis now call Blackwater fever is really a well-known medical condition, and while it has nothing to do with Blackwater Worldwide, Iraqis in al-Anbar province have decided to make the connection between the disease and the lethal U.S.-based company which has been responsible for the death of countless Iraqis.
The disease is most prevalent in Africa and Asia. The patient suffers severe intravascular haemolysis — the destruction of red blood cells leading to kidney and liver failure. It also leads to black or red urination, and hence perhaps the new name ‘Blackwater’.
The deadly disease, never before seen in Iraq on at least this scale, seems to be spreading across the country. And Iraq lacks medicines, hospitals, and doctors to lead a campaign to fight the disease.
“We informed the ministry of the disease, but it seems that they are not in a mood to listen,” a doctor from the al-Anbar Health Office in Ramadi told IPS, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We are making personal contacts with NGOs in an attempt to get the necessary medicines.”
The three doctors who spoke to IPS in Fallujah and in Ramadi in al-Anbar province that lies west of Baghdad, seemed sure that the Iraqi government would do little to face the plague.
I don’t know that either the associating of this fever with Blackwater or the continued failure of public health system in Iraq is surprising, but it is tragic and depressing. Hopefully this gives both the US government another impetus for eliminating private military contractors from Iraq – and the US government’s employ on whole – as well as compel the Iraqi government to treat public health risks seriously as soon as they arise.