Iraq: MSF supports hospitals responding to coronavirus pandemic

To support the Iraqi Ministry of Health (MOH) on facing COVID-19, MSF is providing MOH hospital staff with technical support on infection prevention and control and patient triage.
Iraq 2020 © Nabil Salih/MSF
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NEW YORK, APRIL 14, 2020—With the number of patients with COVID-19 on the rise in Iraq, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has begun supporting several hospitals across the country. According to the Iraqi Ministry of Health (MoH), the country has reported more than 1,000 cases and 60 confirmed deaths due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus

On April 1, MSF began supporting Ibn al-Khatib Hospital in Iraq’s capital, Baghdad. This hospital is one of three designated by the MoH to treat patients with COVID-19 in Baghdad, which is the hardest-hit city in the country. MSF’s team assessed Ibn al-Khatib Hospital’s readiness to deal with the outbreak and started providing hospital staff with training on infection prevention and control (IPC) and triage management. These preparations will ensure that COVID-19 patients receive proper treatment while still protecting other patients and staff from infection.

“The initial goal of our intervention is to help the hospital handle suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases, to make sure patients are welcomed and treated as well as possible in such circumstances, and to also avoid having new patients because of hospital-acquired infections,” said Shaukat Muttaqi, MSF’s head of mission in Iraq. “To reach this objective, the MSF team will be working in collaboration with local hospital staff.”

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MSF is also supporting local health authorities elsewhere in Iraq respond to COVID-19. In the city of Mosul in Ninewa governorate, MSF has prepared a building in the Al Salam health complex for the isolation of patients with suspected cases of COVID-19. Next door to Al Salam, Al-Shifaa hospital—which was rebuilt by MSF in 2019—has been identified by local health authorities as the main referral hospital for COVID-19 patients in Ninewa governorate. MSF plans to convert its own post-operative care facility in the Al Salam health complex in order to support the treatment of COVID-19 patients at Al-Shifaa.

“The health care system in Mosul and across Ninewa governorate in general was heavily impacted by the war in 2017,” Muttaqi said. “MSF is willing to do its part to help prevent the outbreak from adding to the suffering and loss that people in the city have already lived through.”

In Erbil governorate, MSF teams started collaborating with three MoH hospitals assigned for COVID-19 treatment, providing technical support on IPC measures, patient triage, and mental health support.

Other MSF projects continue to provide health services to vulnerable communities across Iraq, including surgical, neonatal, pediatric, and maternity care, noncommunicable disease treatment, emergency care, and mental health support. MSF has put additional preventive measure in place to limit the risk of infection for patients and staff in its regular projects.

“Around Iraq, MSF supports hundreds of extremely vulnerable people every day through our medical programs,” Muttaqi said. “It is vital to facilitate the smooth movement of medical supplies and staff, and to ensure that the provision of essential, and sometimes lifesaving, medical care to patients in our ongoing projects continues.”

MSF has been working in Iraq since 1991 and has more than 1,500 staff across the country. MSF provides free, high-quality health care for all people, regardless of race, religion, gender, or political affiliation.