On a side note to the sometimes pessimistic news concerning the ongoing insurgency and upcoming elections, Doctors at Iraq’s Health Ministry announced that obesity, which had reached epidemic proportions in Iraq in the late 1980’s, has finally been eradicated. The WTO added Iraq to the growing list of countries who have eradicated the chronic condition which once constituted the greatest risk to the health of Iraqi children.
“There’s no doubt,” said Dr. Aziz, the Institute’s Chief of Epidemiology, “that US liberation efforts put the nail in the coffin of this debilitating condition. They got the kids up off the couch and away from the video games and weaned them off of junk foods and onto a lower calorie diet.” Obesity which used to be number one on the list of health risks for Iraqis is now “completely off the charts,” according to one researcher.
Doctors acknowledge that careful monitoring is still necessary to ensure that chronic cases among the ruling authorities remain contained and do not spread the condition to the general population, but doctors at the institute remain confident that Iraq has finally seen the last of the deadly epidemic.
Obesity rates which had risen to 11 percent two years ago, plummeted to 4 percent in the first year of military operations and are now considered negligible.
“These figures clearly indicate the downward trend,” said Alexander Malyavin, a child health specialist with the UNICEF mission to Iraq.
Iraq’s child obesity rate now roughly equals that of Burundi, a central African nation torn by more than a decade of war. It is far lower than rates in Uganda and Haiti.
Doctors said Saddam had tried to spread propaganda implying that the US intended to establish fast food restaurants and Krispy Kreme doughnut shops throughout the region in order to undermine the health of the people. But photographs (see above) released by the Baathists have been proven by the CIA to be retouched. One doctor said that Sadaam used to hand out food vouchers like candy, and the epidemic only grew. He speculated that it had all been a plot to weaken political opposition.
“He’s lost a lot of weight since the war,” said Kasim Said, a day laborer who was at Baghdad’s main children’s hospital to visit his once obese son, Abdullah. The child, lying on a pillow with a Winnie the Pooh washcloth to keep the flies off his head, weighs just 11 pounds.
Parents visiting children recovering from the condition at the hospital admitted that the high price of food and nutritional supplements had contributed to them seeking a more efficient dietary regimen.
International aid efforts and the U.N. oil-for-food program reversed the advances made under the ruinous impact of sanctions, and the rate of obesity among the youngest Iraqis gradually grew to a peak of 11 percent in 2002. But the invasion in March 2003 and the widespread looting in its aftermath severely damaged the basic structures of governance in Iraq, and persistent violence across the country greatly reduced access to Western foods with their high fat and sugar content. Together with the frequent need to run like hell for their lives, these factors have worked what doctors can only describe as a “medical miracle.”
Some doctors at the Ministry disputed the findings that lower fat diets and increased exercise alone had brought an end to the epidemic. They believe that dysentery owing to contaminated water supplies plays a key role. By one count, 60 percent of rural residents and 20 percent of urban dwellers have access only to contaminated water. The country’s sewer systems are in disarray. All agreed that more research was needed to understand the causes and treatment of obesity, but all were unanimous in thanking America’s long term commitment to the future of Iraq for what is hopefully its final eradication.