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Iraqi civilian casualties

Iraqi medical researcher speaks on civilian war deaths

July 26, 2007

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It took three months longer than expected, but Riyadh Lafta finally got the opportunity to discuss his research on Iraqi war-civilian deaths July 20 at SFU’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue in Vancouver

The Iraqi medical doctor and researcher’s originally planned visit to Canada was cancelled last April because his visa was refused by both the U.S. and the U.K.

Dr. Lafta’s free talk about the public health impacts and casualties of the war in Iraq was simulcast to the University of Washington’s Kane Hall in Seattle. A standing-room-only audience of about 140 people attended the Vancouver talk and the Washington venue was also filled to capacity.

Lafta reviewed his research showing that since the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq an additional 654,965 Iraqis have died in addition to what would be expected based on pre-war mortality rates. And more than 600,000 of those deaths - or about 92 per cent - are attributable to violence. The findings were published in the October 2006 edition of The Lancet medical journal and co-authored by Lafta.

Lafta arrived in Canada July 13 on a direct flight from the Middle East and has been meeting since then with researchers including Tim Takaro, a medical doctor and SFU associate professor of health sciences.

Lafta and Takaro, along with another Iraqi scientist and several scientists from the University of Washington, comprise a research team that is studying a rise in childhood cancers in Iraq. Puget Sound Partners, a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation initiative, is funding the research.

"We’re delighted that Dr. Lafta could make it to Canada this time to give his public talk and collaborate with us on cancer research in Iraq, as well as bring his important message about the impact of the Iraq war on public health," says Takaro.

"We’re focussed on nailing down the rate of increase in childhood cancers in South Iraq from 1990 to 2006, what kinds of cancers are most prevalent, and which age groups are most affected. We are not looking at cancer causes yet. That would be a next step," adds Takaro, an environmental health expert.

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