In 2006, at the height of the sectarian conflict in Iraq, insurgents directed their attacks against medical professionals, ambulances, and hospitals. They stole medical supplies, necessary to treat the populace, or forced the staff to treat wounded comrades or family members.
The number of professionals was further reduced as doctors and nurses began fleeing the country in order to escape kidnapping or death. Today, many of America’s best doctors are Iraqis who once lived in Baghdad, and without their mentorship, expertise, and knowledge, generations of students from Iraqi universities and teaching hospitals will continue to receive inadequate educations.
3. Overburden the healthcare system by creating too many patients.
Decades of strife left many water and sewage treatment plants demolished, causing illness-rates to soar. In 1989, there were no cases of cholera per 100,000 people; just 5 years later there were 1,344 cases per 100,000 people.
Saddam Hussein’s destructive efforts during the Iran-Iraq war were no less devastating. Gene-mutating mustard gas was used on the opposing soldiers, and innocent bystanders were also exposed. The damage caused then spread to the next generation of Iraqi children.
In subsequent wars, American munitions tipped with depleted uranium contaminated the environment (and, inevitably, the people as well) causing untold damage to the parents and their children. Doctors in Fallujah are reporting 1 our of every 10 children born at Fallujah General Hospital are born with a birth defect–that’s more than ten times the global average!
In areas where these munitions were used, reports also indicate a 400% increase in birth defects, and hospitals are encountering certain rare defects that were previously unheard of in Iraq. All told, these factors left Iraq with a growing backlog of sick people and, as we’ve seen, hospitals that are largely incapable of treating them.
If youʼre feeling overwhelmed, that’s normal. These are 3 enormous problems, and they’re just the tip of the iceberg! But that doesn’t mean we can’t do our part to help “fix the healthcare system.” It does mean, however, that we have to approach Iraq’s medical infrastructure with humility and a desire to effect root causes rather than symptoms.
What did I miss? What else do you think led to Iraq’s current healthcare crisis? Leave your comments below!
Photos courtesy of Lydia Bullock, Matt Willingham, and Kendelyn Ouellette.
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