Iraq needs $325 million for emergency health care, says World Health Organization
Part of UN humanitarian appeal for $2.1 billion
Geneva/New York/Amman - The people of Iraq are in urgent need of better health care and their situation is deteriorating by the day. The UN has today appealed for at least $325 million in emergency funds to meet the immediate health, nutrition, water and sanitation needs of the most vulnerable populations. Out of this amount, the World Health Organization urgently appeals for $185 million.
This request is part of the wider United Nations humanitarian appeal for $2.1 billion to provide assistance to the people of Iraq over the next six months. This appeal is being launched jointly by all the UN humanitarian agencies in New York and Geneva.
WHO is already working in Iraq to provide badly needed medical assistance. The health status of the Iraqi people has been seriously affected by more than two decades of war and economic sanctions. Child death rates today are more than twice as high as they were in 1990: one in eight children dies before the age of five, one in three children is malnourished and one in four begins life as an underweight baby.
"Overall, the health of people in Iraq is poor and likely to get worse," said Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director General of the World Health Organization. "This appeal is not an optional extra. It is the only way of stabilising the situation, and indeed improving it."
The three biggest child killers in Iraq are acute respiratory infection, diarrhoeal diseases and measles. Almost half of the country's 24.5 million people are children whose future depends on a massive and rapid improvement in the country's health and infrastructure.
Conflict is already adding to the strains on the health of the population and on the infrastructure on which they depend. For example, damage to the electricity and water supply in the southern city of Basra is expected to lead to additional health problems, particularly for children and other vulnerable groups. People elsewhere may soon face similar or worse emergencies.
A substantial investment is needed to provide essential care to people who are either injured in the conflict or whose health suffers as a result of damage to the infrastructure. In the months to come, more will be needed to begin rebuilding the most critical and most badly effected parts of the public health system.
That means building up the capacities of hospitals and health centres; it means providing some $60 million of medicines, medical supplies and equipment; it means repairing and rehabilitating vital hospitals and health centres.
There must be substantial investment in the ability to detect and respond to outbreaks of disease, in the training and equipment of health workers and in the health information which is vital to prioritise health work.
WHO today has more than 300 staff working hard in Iraq to support the health system and to bring badly needed medical assistance to people across the country. During the current conflict, WHO has successfully sent teams to help with an outbreak of diarrhoeal disease in northern Iraq and to assess the health needs of people who have left their homes. WHO is ready to do much more work across the whole country in support of the health system.
In the weeks and months to come, Iraq's health system will almost inevitably come under unprecedented pressure. Health is a crucial part of the economic and social system.
For further information, please contact WHO spokespersons Fadela Chaib in Amman (00 4179 475 5556) or Iain Simpson in Geneva (00 4179 475 5534); email@example.com
The following WHO specialists are available to respond to media questions:
Dr G 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 Co-ordonator, (+4179 509 0640); Dr David Nabarro, WHO Executive Director, Geneva (+41 22 791 2363, +41 79 217 3446)