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[casi] Developing medical needs in Iraq are from lack of basics

Médecins Sans Frontières
Date: 24 Jun 2003

Developing medical needs in Iraq are from lack of basics

Health infrastructure in Iraq remains fragile and the outbreak of disease is
a risk. Distribution and administration to medical facilites remains an
ongoing problem.
Lack of security, lack of drugs in the hospitals and lack of clean drinking
water remain the most important threats to the health situation in central
and south Iraq.

Cases of diarrhoeal disease are abnormally high and MSF staff have started
distributing tailor-made diarrhoeal disease kits and training Iraqi staff on
cholera testing.

In addition, over the last few months, MSF teams have visited several health
centres where the health staff have been running out of drugs.

"The problem seems not so much to be that there are no drugs," says Ayham
Bayzid, head of mission of the activities of MSF in Iraq, "but that the
distribution system to get them from the central warehouse in Baghdad to
hospitals and health centres throughout the country has still not become
functional after it collapsed during the war."

The lack of drugs also further decreases the security situation in the
hospitals. When people begin to worry that there will not be enough drugs to
treat their families, they start threatening the hospital staff.

Consequently MSF activities in southern Iraq is focusing on supporting the
fragile primary health infrastructure. In Basrah and Maysan governate, the
organisation supports 15 critical primary health centres in Basrah with
essential drugs and rehabilitating of destroyed buildings. Alongside this,
the Al-Madana hospital in Basrah has been supplied with drugs, renewable
supplies, IV fluids and HIV spot tests - and MSF is helping to assist in
meeting the most urgent needs of the central laboratory in Maysan governate.

Cholera concerns

Due to the lack of access to clean water, the risk of outbreaks of
communicable diseases such as cholera is still high. In the upper-southern
governates of Iraq, the incidence of diarrhoeal disease normally increases
during the summer months. However this year, because of the lack of clean
drinking water due to the war, a very high percentage of hospital paediatric
admissions are due to diarrhoeal disease.

In 13 governates, MSF will distribute tailor-made diarrhoeal disease kits to
24 hospitals to support this increased caseload and train the staff on the
use of cholera 'Smart' test kits. To support the re-establishment of
laboratory services for communicable diseases, MSF will donate equipment,
materials and agents to the central laboratory in Baghdad and hospital
laboratories in ten southern governates.

Health assessments

Two new health assessments shall take place in the coming few weeks. One of
these will focus on the health situation of some 20,000 displaced Arabs from
Kurdish areas now surviving in Dyala governate (just north of Baghdad). The
other one will target the central part of the south in Qadisiyah governate,
focussing on some communicable diseases, paediatric wards and primary health

In addition, MSF is providing basic health care services to some 1,300
refugees in the No-man's-land at the Iraq-Jordan border.

For further information, visit Médecins Sans Frontières website at

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