The Medical Situation in Iraq is Tragic

Medical System Becomes Sickening
Inter Press Service
Dahr Jamail and Ali Al-Fadhily

BAGHDAD, Nov 23 (IPS) – After three and a half years of occupation, Iraq’s medical system has sunk to levels lower than seen during the economic sanctions imposed after the first Gulf war in 1990.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said Iraqis are now extremely vulnerable in their health needs.

“Several wars and 13 years of economic sanctions left a heavy toll on the nutrition of the population, on the social structure, on the economy and on the health infrastructure and services,” according to a statement on the WHO website.

“This is well depicted in the morbidity and mortality rates of the population of Iraq, particularly of infants, children and mothers. The majority of Iraqis completely depend on the food Public Distribution System for their nutritional requirements.”

The health situation in Iraq has been in constant decline since the beginning of the U.S.-backed UN-imposed sanctions in 1990. Iraqi doctors were reputed to be the best in the Middle East during the 1980’s, but now they are short of medicines, medical equipment and funding to maintain the hospitals.

“We were angry with Saddam’s government for the poor health situation in the country, but now we wish we could get that back,” 55-year-old teacher Ahmed Zaydan from Sadr City in Baghdad told IPS. “There was not enough medical care, but there was something that one could live with and the private sector market was cheap. We were hoping for the change of regime to improve our lives, but the result is that we practically have no government healthcare.”

Saddam Hussein’s regime managed to keep basic medical services free of charge for most Iraqis until the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. There was a hospital in almost every town. Surgeries were carried out free of charge. Medicines were imported by the government and sold at affordable prices to those going to private clinics and hospitals.

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