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MSF in Iraq, 2006/2007
Field Staff: 28
Reason for Intervention:
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The situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate, with severe humanitarian consequences for the civilian population: as of June 2007 it was estimated that over two million people were displaced inside the country and another two million had sought refuge in neighboring countries. There continues to be a massive number of civilian casualties and poor access to healthcare.
Medical structures are confronted with difficulties in caring for the high number of wounded people in terms of bed capacity and staff. Medical doctors and paramedical staff have fled the country because of insecurity and also because of targeted killings. Hospitals regularly report shortages of basic medical supplies and drugs.
MSF was operational in Iraq from April 2003 until November 2004, when a decision was made to close the projects and withdraw the staff because it was increasingly dangerous for international humanitarian organizations inside the country. Seeking ways to provide assistance for Iraqis, MSF in mid-2006 partnered with the Red Crescent hospital in Amman, Jordan and began a project offering reconstructive maxillofacial, plastic and orthopedic surgery for Iraqis. Many patients have suffered war wounds from bombs or bullets, not properly treated at time of injury and requiring multiple operations to rectify and/or restore functionality and a minimum quality of life.
As of August 2007, MSF had treated 236 patients in Amman, the majority (57 percent) presenting with trauma to one or more limbs, 25 percent in need of plastic surgery and 17 percent in need of facial reconstruction. The project has the capacity to treat more patients; however, complicated administrative procedures and refusals by the security force in Jordan make it difficult for patients to cross the border and obtain treatment. In August 2007, more than 100 patients were waiting to get to Amman for surgery.
In late 2006, MSF also began providing emergency medical supplies to a number of hospitals in Iraq and organizing ‘training for trainers’ courses for paramedical staff, also managed from Amman. The team provides anesthetics, analgesics and surgical equipment to the casualty departments of hospitals in Baghdad and Anbar provinces where the worst fighting occurs. The first hospital to join the program reported 2,882 surgical procedures over three months, of which 1,871 were emergency surgeries and 1,482 were violence related.
In early 2007, MSF decided to work in northern Iraq (Iraqi Kurdistan), to provide emergency medical and surgical assistance to Iraqi populations living in areas accessible from the north. The objective is to offer care for civilian victims of the conflict who have sustained war wounds such as severe burns and orthopaedic injuries. A direct intervention by surgical teams is conducted in three hospitals, situated in Dohuk, Erbil and Suleymania. These teams are specialised in the treatment of severe burns and orthopaedic trauma.
MSF is also implementing, from war zones (Ninewa, Tameem, and Dyala provinces), a referral system for war wounded to reach these hospitals. A mental healthcare programme is ongoing in four of the supported hospitals. MSF is also assessing the situation of displaced population and returnees in the northern part of Iraq in order to respond to their medical needs. Between January and June 2007, MSF treated 75 war-wounded people monthly in Erbil and 30 in Dohuk. The number of surgical interventions reached 690 and there were 242 admissions in the burn unit at Erbil hospital. In Dohuk hospital, 2,767 surgical interventions were registered.
MSF has worked in Iraq since 2006.