The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday in Baghdad cautioned that Iraq’s public health, water and sanitation systems were collapsing.
WHO said Iraq’s prime minister responded to protests this summer over failing public services by launching a campaign against corruption and mismanagement.
It said less than four months later, there was little sign of improvement in one key sector such as healthcare.
“With Iraqis fleeing Islamic State in ever greater numbers, the country’s growing population of internal refugees is straining public facilities already ground down by decades of war, sanctions and red tape.
The human right groups also said that with lower revenues from oil exports and higher costs associated with the battle against Islamic State, the government was failing to help the most vulnerable.
It said that the situation had become so desperate that thousands of Iraqis forced to flee Anbar province in the west, had opted to bypass the government and seek medical care from non-governmental organisations such as one called Dari.
The group said based in a modest apartment building in Baghdad’s Karrada Mariam neighbourhood, Dari treated about 50 patients a day, mostly children and the elderly.
Alaa Abdel-Sadaa, Dari President, said so far this year, the group had provided more than 15,000 families with food aid and registered another 8,400 patients at its free medical clinic.
He said Dari relied partly on donations and supplies from pharmaceutical firms and food manufacturers.
“On our part, we rely on volunteers and none of its more than 100 medical professionals are paid.
“We can treat 100 patients with $1,000, and that is difficult for the health ministry or any government hospital to say,” he said.
Ali Makki, Chief of the NGO Directorate in the Iraqi cabinet, said his office was intensifying efforts to facilitate the work of non-governmental organisations, especially those providing relief and health services.
Health Ministry Spokesman, Rifaq al-Araji, said non-governmental organisations had helped to ease the pressure.
He blamed economic sanctions imposed by the UN in 1990 after Iraq invaded Kuwait, subsequent wars and violence, for the poor state of the health care system.
Ameera Abdel-Muhsin, 50, a housewife, at a state hospital, said “I came to a government hospital because I can’t pay the high cost of private doctors.
She said the problem was she still had to get medication from a private pharmacy as it is usually not available in government hospitals.
Another patient, Qasim al-Kinani, 68, said he was admitted to hospital two days ago suffering with kidney failure but his condition was getting worse because of lack of treatment.
“Look at this farce. I’m sleeping on a blood-stained mattress with a filthy smell. I feel like I’m sleeping in a zoo.”
He said Al-Yarmouk hospital in western Baghdad was typical, as patients were transported through corridors littered with cigarette butts.
The war with Islamic State has displaced more than 3 million Iraqis, with most belonging to the minority Sunni sect.
The problem is also a political one which Iraq is poorly placed to handle following years of sectarian bloodletting between Sunnis and Shi’ite Muslims. (Reuters/NAN)