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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

IRAQ: Kurdistan government appeals for medical supplies

BAGHDAD, 1 July 2007 (IRIN) - The semi-autonomous government of Kurdistan, in northern Iraq, has issued a global plea for medical supplies to ensure patients there receive required treatment. It blamed violence in other parts of Iraq for the dire shortage of supplies in the north.

"With the current situation in the south of Iraq, and particularly Baghdad, it is very hard for us to get the materials, equipment, and pharmaceuticals that we need," Dr Abdul-Rahman Osman Younis, the region's health minister, said in an appeal issued late June.

In the appeal, Younis talked of the relative peace and booming economy in the three provinces that make up Kurdistan and praised the region as "a bright spot in the present and future of Iraq… yet with all these advancements our medical institutions need a lot of work”.

Younis added that many of the region's 48 hospitals and 672 primary health care centres lack the basic medicines and medical supplies needed to treat wounds or provide basic care.

"Our children suffer from one of the world's highest rates of heart disease and leukemia and we lack the facilities to treat them here in Kurdistan," he said.

Insurgents disrupting deliveries

Iraq’s relentless violence has made it increasingly difficult for goods to be distributed around the country. Insurgents have been bombing roads and bridges and killing truck drivers as part of their efforts to disrupt the government, officials say.

"The road networks, especially in central Iraq, are not safe enough to send trucks with vital deliveries as militants have almost complete control of the areas which these roads go through," said a senior official at the Iraqi health ministry who refused to be named for security reasons.

"We asked the cabinet many times to provide protection for our convoys to reach all provinces, but no one has responded to us," he added.

Lack of medical skills

In addition to medical supplies not reaching the north, Younis said that the specialists were unable to travel to the region to provide essential training to medical staff there.

"Our doctors and nurses do what they can but a lack of educational services for nursing staff and medical technicians and specialist training for our doctors is a serious concern," he said.

The lack of supplies and expertise is causing many easily preventable deaths. Three months ago, Zainab Fakhir Ali, 33, lost her son three days after she gave birth in a Sulaimaniyah hospital, east Kurdistan, because basic respiratory equipment was not available.

"He suffered problems in his respiratory system so they put him in a premature babies section without giving him treatment. They said they lacked appropriate medical equipment," Zainab said. “They told us to take him to neighbouring countries so we decided to take him to Turkey but it was too late. He died.”

While a far cry from the mayhem and bloodshed that typify a day in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, or other restive regions of the country, the northern Iraqi provinces that make up Kurdistan continue to suffer poor basic services.

Kurdistan has flourished in many ways since it came under US-British protection in 1991 to stop a brutal crackdown on the Kurds by former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's army.

Since then, following a popular uprising against Saddam’s government, Iraq's Kurdish region was granted autonomy. But during its 15 years of self-rule, Kurdish authorities have been unable to provide adequate services to residents, say analysts.

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Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.



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