A tightening of already draconian international economic sanctions against Iran is causing serious shortages of certain drugs, vaccines and other key medical supplies in the country, medical researchers and public-health officials are warning.
The items, along with humanitarian goods such as food, are technically exempted from sanctions imposed by the United Nations, the United States and the European Union, which have strangled Iran’s economy.
But the sanctions’ effects, for example on financial transactions, are causing shortages that are having a severe impact on hospitals, medical-research centres and the Iranian people, says Ali Gorji, a neuroscientist at the University of Münster in Germany, and director of the Shefa Neuroscience Research Center in Tehran.
Exports of pharmaceuticals to Iran from the United States alone fell by half last year, from US$31.1 million in 2011 to $14.8 million. And Novartis, a pharmaceutical company based in Basel, Switzerland, says that the flow of life-saving products to Iran has been “severely affected, if not fully ceased”.
Particularly affected are medicines and vaccines meant to treat and protect infants, as well as antibiotics and supplies for diagnostic equipment. As a result, lives are being put at risk, says Gorji.
A landmark deal to freeze the country’s nuclear activity, reached last month by six world powers and Iran, will see some sanctions relaxed, but Gorji and other experts are sceptical that it will have any immediate effect on alleviating the shortfall. Gorji adds that there is an urgent need for an independent outside assessment of Iran’s medical shortages.
Gorji has been working to raise awareness of the problem since the beginning of the year, and in June organized a letter — signed by 70 scientists and physicians around the world — to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon asking him to address the situation.
In his reply, Ban acknowledged that sanctions were having a detrimental effect on health, noting, for example, that “it is difficult, if not impossible, for importers to pay for medical supplies and equipment”. He added that he was trying “to ensure that sanctions regimes have in place fair and clear procedures for granting humanitarian exemptions”.Imposing economic sanctions is a passive-aggressive way to pretend you're standing up for truth and morality without actually putting your soldiers; (and taxpayers') skin in the game.
The effect, as we saw in Iraq before 9/11, is mass infanticide and the misery of the very people we pretended to want to liberate. This is supposed to afflict the consciences of the ruling bastards, who never miss a meal or a vaccination while sanctions last.
When that happens, Secretary-General Ban should be standing up for the sick, not expressing pious hopes for "fair and clear procedures for granting humanitarian exemptions."
But this is the guy who has denied UN responsibility for Haiti's cholera for over three long years. We can't expect much more from him than pious hopes—certainly not actual lives saved. He's stuck with doing the bidding of those who impose infanticide as foreign policy.