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MSF in Iraq, 2011
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Years of economic sanctions, neglect, war and violence have resulted in an overall deterioration in national health facilities and services in Iraq. There are gaps in emergency services and obstetric care, and a striking absence of mental healthcare.
In parts of the country, violence persists. Health workers have to carry out their work in insecure conditions, and with fewer resources. Despite insecurity, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) was able to scale up its activities.
Obstetric and neonatal support in Najaf
Al-Zahra district hospital is the main referral center for obstetric, gynecological and paediatric care in Najaf governorate. Some 24,000 babies are born in the hospital every year. MSF works in close collaboration with hospital staff, helping to build capacity in specialized units such as intensive care and the maternal and neonatal departments.
MSF specialists in obstetrics and emergency pediatrics held a conference with hospital staff, advocating improved obstetric practices in an effort to reduce neonatal deaths. The team also provides training and works with the hospital to improve sterilization and infection control. Facilities in the maternity ward were renovated.
Emergency care and surgery
Every month, as many as 20,000 people seek emergency medical care at Basra general hospital in the far south of the country. In 2011, an MSF team trained staff in the management of emergency arrivals and situations involving large numbers of injured people. MSF also offered training in post-operative and neonatal care, and renovated the operating theater in the emergency department, improving conditions for the 300 or so operations that are performed each month.
The program was handed over to the Ministry of Health in June 2011. Another team continues to offer surgery and obstetric care in Hawijah hospital. Between January and June, surgeons carried out 212 operations.
Treating kidney failure
In Kirkuk general hospital, some 200 kilometers (124 mi) north of Baghdad, MSF offers treatment to people with non-communicable diseases. The team mainly cares for patients with severe kidney failure. The capacity of the dialysis unit was improved and the number of patients tripled: 88 were receiving dialysis at the end of 2011.
MSF staff conducted more than 10,700 counseling sessions with some 3,800 patients in three hospitals in Baghdad and Fallujah. Since 2009, staff have been working to reduce the stigmatization around mental health issues in Iraq by organizing awareness-raising activities in the community. In conjunction with the Ministry of Health, MSF produced a film exposing the types of mental health problems that are common in the country and explaining that help is available.
Reconstructive surgery in Jordan
Since August 2006, MSF has been running a reconstructive surgery program for wounded Iraqis in Amman, Jordan. Over the years, the program has expanded to admit patients from elsewhere in the region, including Gaza, Yemen, Libya and Syria. MSF provides specialists in plastic, orthopaedic and maxillofacial surgery. In 2011, they performed a total of 913 operations. The team also offers psychosocial support and physiotherapy.
Around 50 new patients are admitted to the program each month. They may stay in the centre for several weeks or as long as two years, depending on their injuries. By the end of 2011, more than 1,700 patients had received advanced surgical care since the program began.
At the end of 2011, MSF had 264 staff in Iraq. MSF first worked in the country in 2003.