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IRAQ: Health care

It is tragic that, when health care is so desperately needed in Iraq, medical personnel is embroiled in politics. Reuters (8/5/03) reported that scores of Iraqi doctors took to the streets of Baghdad to protest against the deteriorating health system and the undersecretary appointed by US officials as the new head of the health ministry. The US civil administration last week appointed Ali Shinan, undersecretary under the government of deposed President Saddam Hussein, as head of the ministry. "The new ministry is made up of the old corrupted figures who had an effective role in damaging the health system," said Amadudin al-Suaidi, another doctor. "It is unacceptable and unreasonable to deal with those figures again. It was not only Saddam Hussein who was responsible for corruption, but all the senior officials," Suaidi said. The demonstrators demanded the dismissal of all the health ministry undersecretaries and directors and improvements in resident doctors' living standards. "Ali a hypocrite, he is not the right man for the post," Ihab Sami, a resident doctor at al-Shaheed Adnan Hospital, said. "No one loves him, he was one of the worst people at the ministry," said Sami, who said the protesters represented the majority of doctors in Iraq. The Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) had planned a news conference on the health ministry appointments but postponed the conference for two days, without giving a reason. Around 200 doctors from 25 hospitals in Baghdad and the provinces chanted: "No more corruption" and "We want a healthy health system" during the protest outside the Palestine Hotel in central Baghdad. Wearing white robes, the doctors carried banners reading "No to former administration," and "We demand the swift installation of a freely elected Iraqi government." Hospitals in Baghdad, hit by power cuts and shortages of medical supplies, were badly affected by lawlessness after Hussein's fall on April 9. Delays in bringing in international aid have also hampered the work of doctors in a country already suffering under mismanagement and 13 years of trade sanctions.

Ronald Hilton - 5/12/03