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Medical care in Iraq after six years of sanctions

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: (Published 29 November 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:1474
  1. Richard Garfield, Henrik H Bendixen professor of clinical international nursing,
  2. Sarah Zaidi, science director, Center for Economic and Social Rights,
  3. Jean Lennock, Health Development Information Project
  1. Columbia University
  2. New York
  3. Ramallah, West Bank

    In April 1996 we visited Iraq to assess medical care services six years after the United Nations imposed economic sanctions. We visited a range of hospitals and health centres, which included 20% of Iraq's civilian institutional beds, in all regions of the country, except the Kurdish Autonomous Region.

    We found nearly one third of hospital beds were closed, and the average length of stay had more than halved since before the Gulf war. More than half of the hospitals' diagnostic and therapeutic equipment was not working owing to a lack of spare parts or maintenance. All public hospitals experienced serious problems with lighting, cleaning, water supply, and sewage. We found that patients routinely brought their own blankets for warmth and used personal kerosene or electric heaters. By contrast, the second floor of Baghdad's Ibn El Baladi Hospital got so hot in summer that “any child who comes to the hospital without a fever ends up with one.”

    One hospital's cleaning budget was 1500 dinars a month (about £1.50 ($2) at black market rates), which provided only hand soap for operating theatres. Disinfectants and antiseptics were almost non-existent. Hospitals were cleaned only with water. At the Ibn Al Atheer Hospital pieces of sheets and blankets from beds had replaced brushes on electric …

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