Potential impact of conflict on health in Iraq
Briefing note: March 2003
Preparing for the health effects of renewed conflict: the work of the international community
The absolute need is for concerted action by all members of the international community to help safeguard the health of people who might be affected by the conflict, and to provide relief to those who face particular dangers.
The goal is a coordinated, flexible, rapid and effective response reflecting best health care practice, in line with the policies and strategies of the national government, and based on the most up-to-date information on population needs.
Guiding principles and goals
The health of all civilians needs central emphasis in the international humanitarian response to any crisis.
The ultimate goal is to reduce illness and death in both the acute phase of the emergency and in the longer term.
This calls for:
Once the acute phase of the crisis has ended, all those concerned with people’s health must work with national authorities to move rapidly into a planned and effective restoration of the health system infrastructure, functions and services.
The health sector’s coordinated response
Health Coordination Group
The World Health Organization (WHO) has been given the role of leading the Health Coordination Group, a planning and implementing umbrella under which UN agencies, governments, international organizations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have teamed up to provide a coordinated response to health risks in Iraq and surrounding countries during and after armed conflict in the region. The Health Coordination Group aims to be as inclusive as possible and as such welcomes the participation of all organizations which have experience of providing health services and health care support in emergency situations and their aftermath.
The Health Coordination Group is working to:
Priority population groups
Planning of response efforts to the health crisis has taken into consideration that different groups of people would have different health needs:
The coordinated response would be staged in phases according to the security situation prevalent in the country:
Supplies and health staff are already in place Kits containing supplies for basic health care are already in place in Iraq to cover around half a million people for three months. In addition, supplies stored in Government warehouses are estimated to be the equivalent of three months normal consumption. In surrounding countries, kits to cover around 150 000 refugees for three months are in place. Supplies for another 750 000 are reported to be in the pipeline or available to be called on within a few days for use in Iraq and the region. Several fully staffed field hospitals and at least 6 self-contained and staffed clinics are on standby.
Almost 250 international staff are in place or can be rapidly deployed to work on health projects and an approximately equal number are on standby to provide back-up, including some specialist care, as needed. The number of national staff that are currently or tentatively planned to be employed by international agencies/organizations is considerably higher. These would complement the staff of the health systems of Iraq and neighbouring countries and volunteers of the national Red Crescent Societies.