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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 November, 2004, 16:08 GMT
Iraq health care 'in deep crisis'
Iraq hospital patients
Hospitals are unable to cope with Iraq's relentless violence
Iraq's health system is in a far worse condition than before the war, a British medical charity says.

Doctors from the group Medact conducted surveys with international aid groups and Iraqi health workers in September.

They exposed poor sanitation in many hospitals, shortages of drugs and qualified staff and huge gaps in services for mothers and children.

Medact, which monitors healthcare in post-conflict areas, called for an inquiry into the situation.

It has also challenged the British government to set up a commission to establish the level of civilian casualties in Iraq.

Damaged hospitals

"The war is a continuing public health disaster that was predictable - and should have been preventable," the group says.

"Excess deaths and injuries and high levels of illness are the direct and indirect results of ongoing conflict."

Groups like the medical charity Merlin and the UN aid organisation Unicef were among those whose staff provided information.

They paint a picture of a health service struggling to cope and, because of the continuing violence, a population often afraid to leave their homes to seek medical help.

In those many areas of Iraq where there are no terrorists and no insurgents there is no problem whatsoever with the delivery of healthcare
UK foreign secretary
Jack Straw
Twelve percent of Iraq's hospitals were damaged during the war and the country's two main public health laboratories were also destroyed, the report says.

However, Iraq's deputy prime minister Barham Saleh told reporters in London that the health situation in Iraq was "not good" but it was improving not deteriorating.

He said "the level of devastation that Saddam Hussein has left us with was unimaginable" and added that health budgets were increasing.

UK foreign secretary Jack Straw pointed out that since the conflict 95% of children under five had been immunised, some 150 primary health care centres were planned and a string of hospitals in the south of the country had been renovated.

He said the great mistake the report made was blaming any problems with healthcare on the Iraqi government and health ministry rather than terrorists and insurgents.

"In those many areas of Iraq where there are no terrorists and no insurgents there is no problem whatsoever with the delivery of health care."

Medact accuses the UK and US governments and Iraqi authorities of denying "the true extent of harm" to Iraq's civilians.

It also says health relief and reconstruction efforts have been bungled through mismanagement and corruption.


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Iraqi representative defends healthcare provision




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