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Iraq Hospitals Still Waiting For Basic Medical Supplies (2004)

Iraq's healthcare system is continuing to deteriorate as not enough qualified staff or equipment is available, according to the Iraqi Medical Association (IMA).

"Doctors are facing serious challenges, further exacerbated by poor resources offered by the government. The medical system is getting worse every day and [even] with all the efforts made by the Ministry of Health, the problems are serious. Iraqis are dying due to a lack of proper medical assistance," said Farouk Najji, a clinician and senior member of IMA.

According to the Ministry of Health, the U.S. has spent nearly $1 billion on Iraq's healthcare system but more than $8 billion is required over the next four years to fund the current healthcare structure.

"The money invested in healthcare is not enough, especially with the increase in emergency requirements. The number of injured people increases every day and we have observed the appearance of diseases that were under control before, such as stress, cardiologic and intestinal diseases," said Barak Ahmed, public information officer at the Ministry of Health.

The IMA says 90 percent of the nearly 180 hospitals countrywide are lacking resources.

"We cannot save lives as long as there is a lack of essential supplies. Most of the time we have a shortage of intravenous fluids, oxygen bottles and there are not enough beds to cover requirements on a daily basis," said Dr Mudhafar Yehia, a clinician at Medical City Hospital in Baghdad.

In the paediatric ward, the problem is even more serious as there aren't enough needles for intravenous fluid for diarrhoea treatment, said Yehia.

Yehia said that at least 20 children were reported to have died in Baghdad since August because of a shortage of needles, but the number could be much higher in small cities or towns where supplies are even scarcer.

Hala Jumeiri, 5, died last week because medicine to treat her serious dehydration was not avialable. Her father tried to find the required medicine on the black market, but it was too late and the girl died in her mother's arms.

"She was an innocent victim of the deteriorated health situation in the country. Children like my daughter are dying because simple medicine cannot be found in public or private pharmacies," said Abu Khalil, Jumeiri's father.

With escalating violence in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, doctors are increasingly the victims of attacks and kidnappings for ransom by criminal gangs or by insurgents. As a result, doctors are fleeing Iraq.

Najji from the IMA said that of the 34,000 Iraqi physicians registered prior to 2003, roughly half have fled the country.

"About 2,000 physicians have been killed since 2003 and the murderers have not been charged for their crimes. The violence has increased and every day we are losing the best professionals in Iraq," Najji said.

In some cases, ambulances picking up the injured after explosions are without paramedics or nurses, Najji said.

"There are not enough professionals and the ones available are in hospitals trying to find out how to treat patients in improvized operating theatres," he said.

Hundreds of private clinics have been closed in the capital after gangs started to kill doctors while they were attending patients.

"My colleague was killed while he was attending one of his patients two weeks ago. The armed gang broke into his clinic, shot him dead and left without explanation," Dr Ibrahim Abdel-Sattar, a cardiologist in Baghdad, said.

"We urge the international community to try and find a solution to help thousands of physicians who are being killed while trying to save lives in Iraq who in exchange are getting bullets and very poor salaries," Abdel-Sattar said.

© IRIN   [Integrated Regional Information Networks is a project the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.]

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Albion Monitor   November 8, 2006   (

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