WHO Staff working throughout Iraq to improve the health situation

UN Humanitarian briefing
23 April 2003

WHO national staff, 327 people in total, are working in many Iraqi communities to help kick-start medical services. This includes following up on WHO and other health assessments, which have identified specific needs for hospitals and health clinics. It also involves investigating and following up on the infrastructure needs which support medical facilities, including electricity, running water and waste removal.

WHO teams are currently conducting and following up on investigations in Baghdad (where three teams are working), Nasiriyah, Mosul, Kirkuk and Diyalah. WHO, in conjunction with Iraqi national health staff, other United Nations agencies and nongovernmental organizations, has already taken the following action.

Baghdad

A team composed of a WHO epidemiologist and engineers, plus Iraqi microbiologists from the National Public Health Laboratories, is rebuilding the laboratories’ capacity to analyse blood, urine, tissue and other samples. These laboratories are crucial as prompt analysis and diagnosis of samples brought to the laboratories will allow timely identification and consequent control of diseases, including outbreaks of diarrheal diseases or measles .

WHO is also working urgently to re-start the activities of Baghdad’s blood bank. The Jordanian Ministry of Health has agreed to provide, on loan, 50 kits each to test for Hepatitis C (HCV), HIV and Hepatitis B. WHO will forward the kits to Baghdad as soon as possible. WHO is also looking to other sources, including the local market, for more kits. WHO will purchase another 30 HCV and HIV kits, which will be forwarded to Baghdad within 48 hours.

Mosul

WHO, in conjunction with the Department of Health, has today moved 3 trucks filled with urgently needed medical supplies from Dohuk to Mosul. Two WHO staff - a Senior Pharmacist and his assistant - accompanied the trucks, which formed part of a 100-truck convoy of humanitarian aid. The medical supplies include intravenous drip bottles, blood bags, kits for determining blood type, and adrenalin.

WHO already has three national staff - an information technology specialist, a biomedical engineer and a civil engineer - in Mosul in order to assist with the kick-starting of health services there. It is expected that, by tomorrow, a complete inventory of the city’s needs will be ready.

Kirkuk

WHO reports from Kirkuk that life appears to be returning to normal: electricity and water both seem to be functioning. This news is very positive for the functioning of the health system in Kirkuk. WHO also reports that coordination between WHO and local partners including NGOs, other UN agencies and local authorities is going well and contributing to the smooth functioning of health services.

Diyalah

With improved security and with strong cooperation between WHO and the local Department of Health officials, WHO has been able to extend its activities south as far as Diyalah. Currently, a team composed of WHO doctors and engineers and the Director-General of the Governorate’s Department of Health in Diyalah, are performing an initial assessment of the state of the health infrastructure there and what is needed for the 1.1 million people living in the Governorate.

For further information, please contact WHO spokespersons Fadela Chaib in Amman(00 4179 475 5556) or Christine McNab in Geneva (00 41 79 254 6815)

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)

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