Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Iraqi Hospitals Ailing Under Occupatiion

Summary of Dahr Jamail Report
by Bert De Belder

From April, 2004 through January, 2005, Dahr Jamail surveyed 13 hospitals in Iraq in order to research how the healthcare system was faring under the US-led occupation.

The report documents the desperate supply shortages facing hospitals, the disastrous effect that the lack of basic services like water and electricity have on hospitals and the disruption of medical services at Iraqi hospitals by US military forces.

Three out of the eleven hospitals surveyed are frequently raided by the US military, five others sporadically.

Although the Iraq Ministry of Health claims its independence and has received promises of over $1 billion of US funding, hospitals in Iraq continue to face ongoing medicine, equipment, and staffing shortages under the US-led occupation.

Dr. Qasim al-Nuwesri, the chief manager at Chuwader General Hospital, one of two hospitals in the sprawling slum area of Sadr City, Baghdad, an area of nearly 2 million people, said that for his hospital, the lack of potable water was the major problem. The hospital needs at least 2000 liters of water per day to function with basic sterilization practices. According to Dr. al-Nuwesri, they received 15% of this amount.

In November 2004, shortly after razing Nazzal Emergency Hospital to the ground, US forces entered Fallujah General Hospital, the city’s only healthcare facility for trauma victims, detaining employees and patients alike. According to medics on the scene, water and electricity were “cut off,” ambulances confiscated, and surgeons, without exception, kept out of the besieged city.

“I was with a woman in labor, the umbilical cord had not yet been cut,” said Asma Khamis al-Muhannadi, a doctor who was present during the US and Iraqi National Guard raid on Fallujah General Hospital. “At that time, a US soldier shouted at one of the (Iraqi) national guards to arrest me and tie my hands while I was helping the mother to deliver.”

As an occupying power, the US was responsible for conforming with international humanitarian law and human rights law, regarding the situation of healthcare in Iraq. The Fourth Geneva Convention contains specific provisions pertaining to the delivery of healthcare services.

The report clearly illustrates the abject failure of the US to carry out even minimal humanitarian duties as occupying power.
(The report has been published by the BRussells Tribunal, Medical Aid for the Third World, El Taller International, the Asian Women’s Human Rights Council, the Association of Humanitarian Lawyers and SOS Iraq. It was launched at a press conference in Brussels on June 21, 2005.)
Report Extract:

"Many doctors in Iraq believe that, more widely, the lack of assistance, if not outright hostility, by the US military, coupled with the lack of rebuilding and reconstruction by foreign contractors has compounded the problems they are facing.

"According to Agence France-Presse, the former ambassador of Iraq Paul Bremer admitted that the US led coalition spending on the Iraqi Health system was inadequate. "It’s not nearly enough to cover the needs in the healthcare field," said Bremer when referring to the amount of money the coalition was spending for the healthcare system in occupied Iraq.8

"When asked if his hospital had received assistance from the US military or reconstruction contractors, Dr. Sarmad Raheem, the administrator of chief doctors at Al-Kerkh Hospital in Baghdad said, "Never ever. Some soldiers came here five months ago and asked what we needed. We told them and they never brought us one single needle... We heard that some people from the CPA came here, but they never did anything for us."

"At Fallujah General Hospital, Dr. Mohammed10 said there has been virtually no assistance from foreign contractors, and of the US military he commented, "They send only bombs, not medicine."

Dahr Jamail reports on the struggling health care situation in Iraq. The report surveys 13 Iraqi Hospitals, examines the actions taken by US military against hospitals and care workers that constitute war crimes as defined by the Geneva conventions, discusses and documents cases of US medical personnel complicit in torture through failures to document the visible signs of torture on their patients, and much more.

See the Full Report at

See Also:
Commentary on the report by Bert De Belder
Electronic Iraq Coverage
Iraqi Doctors Strike over Police Gun Threats


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