WHO health briefing on Iraq

UN humanitarian briefing
30 April 2003

The World Health Organization continues to find many hospitals throughout Iraq in a poor state of repair, with health staff working in extremely difficult circumstances. Ultimately, the WHO is concerned about the care patients can receive in these settings. With the conflict now over, the WHO is concerned about further casualties due to the deteriorating conditions, at a time when there is an opportunity to improve the beleaguered Iraqi health system. Urgent support to kick-start the Iraqi health system can bridge the healthcare gap until a new administration is in place.

Portrait of Kirkuk Azadi Hospital (formerly Saddam hospital): WHO national staff report the situation at this hospital as “gloomy”, and staff were very concerned about the overall conditions. The immediate priorities are re-instating hospital housekeeping, so that sheets and washrooms are cleaned. The sewage system needs to be repaired, as sewage is backing-up, increasing the risks of infection for patients. Limited food stocks – rice, beans and oil – are available for just three months, but there is no other food, including vegetables, fruit or animal protein. The 350 health workers at the hospital were also concerned about transportation, as insecurity and interruptions to the public transport system are making it increasingly difficult simply to go to work.

Each of these problems can be solved with an infusion of very little money and some basic equipment:

  • An immediate grant of just $US 1600.00, which would take care of the housekeeping problems.
  • Hiring two passenger buses to pick-up and drop-off staff. This would cost just US$ 1000.000 per month.
  • A pick-up truck for the hospital – necessary for basic maintenance. Cost – just US$ 400 per month
  • US $1000.00 per month to purchase nurtritious food for the patients

Therefore, with an initial infusion of just US$ 4000.00 per month, the Kirkuk Azadi Hospital can re-start its services, and serve the people who are ill, injured, or need treatment in Kirkuk. The picture is similar for many hospitals throughout Iraq. The WHO believes an infusion of relatively little money into the hospitals that need it, will meet the immediate health needs of the Iraqi people.

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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