May 24, 1991
Man Details Scenes of Death Among Refugees
By I.P. Weston
News-Press Staff Writer
a million Kurds returning from Iranian refugee camps
to their homeland in Iraq are facing deadly epidemics
of typhoid fever and cholera, a Santa Barbara photojournalist
who returned from the Middle East said this week.
refugee camps within the Allied Security Zone along
the northern Turkish-Iraqi border are getting adequate
medical supplies and attention from Western relief
agencies, other refugees caught in a no man's land
along the northern Iraqi-Iran border are getting no
supplies and virtuality no medical help, photojournalist
Kevin McKiernan told the News-Press.
are the people you don't see on television," he said. "There
are no journalists here."
entered Iraq illegally - escorted by Kurdish guerrillas
- from Turkey to visit the war-ravaged Iraqi border
towns of Diana and Rawanduz.
of an epidemic in these towns outside the Allied Security
Zone - a 100-mile stretch of land in the extreme northern
part of Iraq bordering Turkey - reached McKiernan in
of refugees are traveling by foot and trucks along
Hamilton Road, a main thoroughfare between Iran and
Iraq that passes through Diana and Rawanduz. Because
this route lies outside the security zone, Western
relief agencies have no clear authority to airlift
supplies into the region.
roadside river used for drinking water, contaminated
with bacteria, has caused an outbreak of typhoid, cholera
and diarrhea, McKiernan said.
young boy, videotaped by McKiernan near the border,
screamed with pain and bit his fist as dirty dressing
were removed from legs mangled by an Iraqi land mine.
children with diarrhea look for a place to relieve
themselves off the road...then they just step on a
mine," said German physician Michael Ollefs, who entered
Iraq illegally with another doctor to set up a makeshift
clinic 40-miles east of Diana.
said many of the hundreds of children he's treating
are doomed unless they get anti-typhoid and anti-cholera
physician Rafiz Ahmed - overwhelmed with patients in
a Diana hospital without running water and occasional
electricity - told McKiernan he has resorted to treating
his patients with ampicillin, a low-grade penicillin
that is largely useless against typhoid and cholera.
we get efficient treatment, then these people will
thrive," Ahmed said inside the hospital where patients
were doubled up in beds and on the floor. Rows
of Kurdish mothers spoon-feeding mash to malnourished
toddlers gazed into McKiernan's camera from the floor.
is the real story of the Persian Gulf War," McKiernan
said. "Children dying. Hamilton Road is
lined with their graves. I saw one gravesite
of 39 people. I counted. Twenty-five of
them were children."
Relief International of Santa Barbara has sent more
than 12 tons of donated medical goods to the Persian
Gulf since 120,000 Iraqi troops marched into Kuwait
City Aug. 2.
the non-profit organization wants to get medical supplies
to Diana and Rawanduz. DRI President Ann Carlos
said the supplies are ready to go, but getting them
into Iraq will be tricky.
can probably get into Silopi, Turkey, no problem," she
said Thursday. "But then we have to cross over
into Iraq. The most recent information...is we
need to get from Silopi into Zhaku, a still disputed
territory on the Iraqi side of the border. It's
a five-minute helicopter ride, but we're not sure the
U.S. military will fly in there."
in Diana and Rawanfuz "need specialized anti-biotics,
IV solution, solutions for dehydration, syringes, dressings,
sutures, gauze, tape, anesthetic to dull pain - they
don't have any of these things," Carlos said.
An estimated 170,000 refugee children are expected
to die within the next several months, she added. But with
antibiotics, Ahmed said he could save 75 percent. Without
90 percent of his patients will die, he added.
McKiernan - whose pictures
and interviews from the camps were used by CBS News and Time Magazine - said
that during his eight-day trek along Hamilton road, he saw no other journalists.
"I really began to
see what was going on in this area," he said. "It looked a bit like
the end of the world. Burning garbage, an acrid awful smell, helmets
left behind on the roadside by retreating Iraqi troops, demolished buildings,
wrecked cars. It looked like something out of the 'Road Warrior'."