Disease may be Kuwait's next enemy, analysts predict One-fourth of civilians may be dead or facing injuries and illness before war ends, U.S. says. PERSIAN GULF SHOWDOWN

February 26, 1991|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- As much as 25 percent of Kuwait's civilian population may be dead, injured or suffering from such diseases as cholera and dysentery by the time the country is free of Iraqi troops, U.S. Army analysts predict.

The analysis, contained in a detailed report prepared by Army civil affairs units to guide U.S. forces that will occupy Kuwait, paints a picture of a ravaged country.

Merely providing food, water and rudimentary medical care to the roughly 800,000 people still in Kuwait "will stretch world relief organizations to their maximum capacities," according to the report.

Already, the plans say, dysentery has become commonplace among Kuwaiti civilians, 40 percent of whom are under the age of 15.

"Large numbers of children may be lost" to epidemics of viral disease spread by unsanitary conditions, and tens of thousands more could die in fighting if Iraqi troops battle to hold Kuwait City, the planners predict.

Even more civilians could die after formal fighting stops because "terrorist action is expected from stay-behind Palestinian or Iraqi personnel," said the report.

In addition to cholera, which is widespread in the Middle East, "episodes of plague have been reported in recent years" in Kuwait and could recur, the report said.

Rats, feeding on 288 million pounds of unburied garbage that has accumulated in and around Kuwait City since Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion, already pose a serious threat.

Prior to the Iraqi invasion, more than 1.8 million people lived in Kuwait. More than 1 million have since fled, and of the remaining population, about 100,000 could be injured and 40,000 killed if Iraq follows a "scorched earth" policy, the plan estimates.

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