Iraqi healthcare in peril
Medical aid from Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has been offered to those who fled Hawija during IS control and subsequent battles to retake the area since 2016. At the Hawija refugee processing centers, we operated mobile clinics. Refugee camps were our place of labor.
These camps have been shut down by the federal government of Iraq since 2020, resulting in families being forced to return to their native regions or face additional displacement.
Many medical facilities were destroyed in the fight to retake Hawija from IS, making treatment for those in need more difficult. A growing need for healthcare and an increase in the number of unmet needs prompted our teams to concentrate their efforts on chronic diseases, mental health, and sexual and reproductive health.
Every morning, Dr. Ramah Essa makes a trip to the MSF clinic in Kirkuk, Iraq, to check on patients with chronic diseases. At 8 a.m., a large crowd had gathered. His day begins with an elderly woman who is both diabetic and hypertensive.
Doctor Essa says, “We’ll check your blood sugar to determine if your diabetes is under control, and if it’s not, we’ll adjust your therapy.”
Patients with NCDs such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma, epilepsy, and psychiatric diseases are treated by Drs. Essa and Saif. In order to prevent life-threatening complications, patients with these conditions need ongoing medical treatment for the rest of their lives.
Dr. Essa says that every month, the Al-Abbasi institution handles between 3,000 and 3,500 patients. Dr. Saif sees about 50-60 patients a day.
A paucity of materials and personnel plagued the region’s hospital system prior to the wars. It’s impossible to meet the region’s needs when some damaged facilities are still not rebuilt or operational. Far-flung consultations are common in the medical field. Because there are no local facilities, or there aren’t any, or they were never built.
Working today at the Al-Abbasi clinic and the basic health care center in Al-Hawija is an honor for us. In all sites, our medical coordinator in Iraq, Tetyana Pylypenko, treats 7,000 NCD patients, and our capacity to respond is at its highest.
However, we are aware of the community’s needs, but we are unable to treat everyone. ” We will have difficulty providing high-quality patient care if the cohort continues to expand. She warns that there may be challenges with space, supplies, and staffing.
In collaboration with local healthcare authorities, our experts developed treatment-starting guidelines. Priority is given to those who are most vulnerable and urgent. Referrals for patients who are stable are made to a public primary care center in the area. With the public clinic, we can share the workload and better serve our patients. We provide prenatal, postnatal, and family planning services to women in the Hawija main healthcare center.
A MSF midwife developer at Hawija General Hospital, Wafaa helps midwives deliver up to 300 newborns each month. MSF trains the delivery room abilities of the midwives on a regular basis.
Hawija and Al-Abbasi are home to our teams that care for patients from the surrounding area and even governorates to the south. Our clinics offer free, high-quality health treatment to those in need.
To raise awareness about mental health issues and the work of MSF, Amira and her team of community mental health workers go door to door in Al-Abbasi. They frequently come across persons who want psychosocial assistance as a result of stress or worry.
Clinic mental health counselors are recommended by the team. Mental health counselor Fatin and her colleagues work with patients to help them better understand their conditions and develop coping mechanisms.
Annie Marie, MSF’s medical team leader in Kirkuk, feels that treatment must take into account patients’ physical and psychological conditions as well as their past trauma.
Because of the recent traumas that people in this community have through, “we maintain mental healthcare as a critical component of our services,” she says.