20 March 2008

Red Cross report on Iraq

I would like to share an excerpt from the International Committee of the Red Cross report on living conditions in Iraq. It details how the Iraqi people are still experiencing a deficiency in health care. The entire report can be found here.

(Begin Quote)

Five years after the war began, many Iraqis do not have access to the most basic health care. There is a lack of qualified staff and many hospitals and health-care facilities have not been properly maintained. Because of poor security conditions in much of the country, the sick and injured are often cut off from access to medical care. In some areas, it has become extremely difficult to provide emergency medical services, supplies or equipment because of numerous checkpoints on the roads and curfews restricting movement. Some people go to private clinics, which are safer but also more expensive – so much so that a large part of the population could never afford them. A private-sector consultation typically costs between two and seven US dollars, depending on the quality of the service. It is not at all clear how people earning less than five dollars a day could ever pay so much. Hospitals and health-care centres often lack drugs and other essential items. There are not enough functioning emergency rooms and operating theatres to cope with mass casualties. There are currently 172 public hospitals with 30,000 beds – well short of the 80,000 beds needed – plus 65 private hospitals. Most of the hospitals were built over 30 years ago and are in sub-standard condition. This is also true of many of the primary health-care centres, which have been using the same equipment for 25 years. Medical facilities and equipment everywhere except in the northern part of the country are regularly in need of repair and upgrading. Because of the poor security situation, proper maintenance has been impossible. The lack of qualified and experienced medical staff, in particular in the governorates of Najaf, Missan, Anbar, Wasit and Babil, has had a direct impact on the level of care available. For instance, the lack of midwives means that many women giving birth at night must do so without assistance, since poor security conditions and curfews prevent them from going to hospital. Like many other Iraqis, medical doctors, nurses and their families are in danger of being kidnapped or killed. Some have received threats against them. According to official Iraqi sources, more than 2,200 doctors and nurses have been killed and more than 250 kidnapped since 2003. Of the 34,000 doctors registered in 1990, at least 20,000 have left the country. The Iraqi health-care system is now in worse shape than ever. Many lives have been lost because prompt and appropriate medical care is not available. More needs to be done to ensure that all Iraqis have access to improved health services. Medical personnel and the facilities they work in must be better protected against the impact of war. There needs to be a renewed effort not only to maintain and upgrade medical facilities but also to develop the skills and capacity of medical staff.

(End Quote: Source, International Committee of the Red Cross, 2008)


Jen said...

Reports like that sure put into perspective our whining about wait times here.

lainy said...

I can't even begin to imagine how not having health care available to me would be like. That must be frightening.

I'm so sorry for them.