WHO health briefing on Iraq

UN humanitarian briefing
16 April 2003

Mosul and Kirkuk

A team from the World Health Organization has conducted a preliminary assessment of health facilities in the northern town of Mosul, in Ninawa Governorate. The team reports that the main hospitals in the town have been partially looted. They are now estimated to be operating at about 50% of normal capacity. Most of the health centres in Mosul are also reported to have been looted and burnt, as have the department of health offices and at least some of the warehouse facilities. We hope to give you more details on this tomorrow.

WHO is working with local health authorities in the three Northern Governorates to support health facilities in Kirkuk. We have agreed with them that they will move emergency supplies to Kirkuk to meet some of the urgent needs which have been identified over the past two days. WHO is also working on ways to provide urgently needed financial support to keep the health system in Kirkuk working.


The situation in Baghdad continues to be a source of major concern. The Central Public Health Laboratory has been looted and incubators containing polio virus cultures have been stolen. There have also been reports from elsewhere in Iraq of virus cultures being stolen. This is very unlikely to cause disease, but is a serious concern because these cultures are vital for research and public health work.

Hospitals in Baghdad which are reported to be functioning to some extent include the Medical City complex, which includes four hospitals, as well as Yarmouk, Kadhimiya and No'man hospitals. WHO staff will continue to visit the major hospitals in the city in order to assess, prioritise and rapidly meet the most urgent needs.

We have made contact with WHO staff in Baghdad and the information they have provided is bleak. The WHO office in Baghdad has been very badly looted and burnt. All the official vehicles have been stolen from the compound and much valuable equipment and information destroyed.

For further information, please contact WHO spokespersons Melanie Zipperer in Amman (00 4179 477 1722) or Iain Simpson in Geneva (00 4179 475 5534)

The following WHO specialists are available to respond to media questions: Dr Ghulam Popal, Head of the WHO country office in Iraq (+962 795 7092); Dr Mohamed Jama, Deputy Regional Director, WHO Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office, Cairo (+202 276 5026 ); Dr Jim Tulloch, WHO Regional Health Coordinator, (+4179 509 0640); Dr David Nabarro, WHO Executive Director, Geneva (+41 22 791 2363, +41 79 217 3446)