The Destruction Of Iraqi Healthcare Infrastructure

Published on FPIF Foreign Policy in Focus, by Adil Shamoo, May 31, 2007.

Ten thousand doctors have fled the country. Two thousand have been killed. Some hospitals lack the rudimentary elements of care: hygiene, clean water, antibiotics, anesthetics and other basic drugs. Oxygen, gauze, rubber gloves, and diagnostic instruments such as X-rays are absent or rarely evident. This is Iraq today.

Before Iraq suffered through an embargo and two wars with the United States starting in 1990, its healthcare system was considered one of the best in the Middle East. Iraq had well-trained physicians and modern facilities. Today, the healthcare system barely exists at all, with few healthcare workers and hospitals that are battlegrounds.

According to Save the Children, an independent non-profit humanitarian organization, in 2005, 122,000 Iraqi children died before they reached their fifth birthday. Since 1990, there has been a 150 percent increase in the mortality rate for Iraqi children. The under-5 mortality rate per one thousand live births in Iraq is 125; in Egypt it is just 33. Iraq’s record in children’s healthcare now ranks in the bottom three countries in the world …

… International law places the burden of maintaining order, safety, and well-being of an occupied nation on the shoulders of the occupying power. Our political and military leaders estimate the number of our soldiers that will die or be injured due to an invasion. However, an additional element our leaders need to consider is the well-being of the nation we conquer. The human suffering of the invaded nation is detriment to our moral standing in the world. (full text).

(Adil E. Shamoo born and raised in Baghdad is a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and is a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus. He writes on ethics and public policy and can be reached by E-mail).

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