John Simpson said the Fallujah hospital\'s maternity ward is "absolutely packed" with babies suffering from congenital heart defects. He says he was shown a picture of a three-headed baby, and saw children suffering from paralysis and brain damage.
Researcher Malik Hamdan told the BBC he had seen footage of "babies born with an eye in the middle of the forehead, the nose on the forehead."
Iraqi officials \'anxious not to embarrass the Americans\'
Simpson admits he can point to no concrete evidence of a spike in birth defects -- principally because no study has ever been carried out on the situation in Fallujah.
And he reports that the Iraqi government is seeking to downplay the medical problems. Simpson says the Fallujah doctors who raised the alarm about birth defects were "well aware that what they said went against the government version, and we were told privately that the Iraqi authorities are anxious not to embarrass the Americans over the issue."
Simpson further reported that he had "heard many times" that women in Fallujah were being warned not to have children.
A report at the UK\'s Guardian last fall stated that the rise in birth defects "may be linked to toxic materials left over from the fighting," but, lacking further research, the increase is "unprecedented and at present unexplainable."
"We are seeing a very significant increase in central nervous system anomalies," hospital director Dr. Ayman Qais told the Guardian. "Before 2003 [the start of the war] I was seeing sporadic numbers of deformities in babies. Now the frequency of deformities has increased dramatically."
Fallujah is not the only place in Iraq where medical researchers are alarmed by high rates of childhood disease that they believe may be linked to the war.
US and Canadian researchers have found that leukemia in children has nearly tripled in the southern city of Basra over the past 15 years. Basra was the site of armed conflict even before the US invasion, and was a frequent site of violence during the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988. But much of the increase in leukemia came in the three years after the 2003 US invasion, the researchers found.
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