Birth rate soars in Iraq since war
BAGHDAD — In the face of relentless violence, political chaos, economic uncertainty and nightly curfews, Iraq’s maternity wards are experiencinganunlikelybabyboom.
Despitetheobstacles,thebirthrate in Iraq actually has increased since the U.S.-led invasion 43 months ago, according to the country’s Health Ministry. The rate of births in the country has jumped from 29 births per 1,000 people in 2003 to 37 per 1,000 last year, according to government figures.
In neighboring Iran, the birthrate ishalfthat—21per1,000population, while the average birthrate in the Middle East is 25, according to the World Bank. The birthrate in the United States is about 14 births per 1,000people,accordingtothefederal CentersforDiseaseControlandPrevention.ThanaaAlladinMohammed, a doctor who helped compile the statistics,saidtheIraqitraditionoflarge families is primarily responsible for the birthrate. “People want to have children, regardless of the violence,” she said.
Haithem Ramdam, a 34-year-old engineer and first-time parent, agreed.
“I’m more concerned about the money needed to take care of my familythanIamaboutthesecuritysituation,” said Mr. Ramdam, whose child, a girl named Jamani, was born Oct.2.“Thisispartofthecycleoflife, and you can’t stop it.”
That cycle, Iraqis say, also drives many parents whose children have beenkilledbywar-relatedviolenceto produce more. Fourat Hameed, 29, watched his 3-year-old son, Youseff, die after the taxi they were riding in struck a roadside bomb near Baqouba,40milesnorthofBaghdad, in September 2003. The following year,Mr.Hameed’swife,Dunai,gave birth to a girl, and in April, they had another son, also named Youseff.
“That boy is a gift from God,” said Mr. Hameed, who noted the importancemanyIraqisplaceonbearinga sontoleadthefamilyandcarryonits name. “Of course, we can never replacethechildwelost,butwewanted a son.”
Iraqi women seeking to give birth in a hospital but unable to afford the $200 fee charged by most private facilities in Baghdad must turn to government-run hospitals. These hospitals, Iraqis say, often lack staff, equipment and medicine.
Sabrya Fahed, whose daughter Kamel delivered her first child at the Al-WiyahHospitalineastBaghdadon Oct. 4, said giving birth in a Baghdad hospital is more arduous now.
“Igavebirthforthelasttimeinthis samehospital11yearsago,andeverything was much better then,” said the 43-year-old Mrs. Fahed, who has five children. “Now everything is worse, from the treatment of the staff to the condition of the building.”