Whenever someone hears about our kids or reads about our work they almost always arrive at the same question: “How did Iraq get this way?” “What caused this?” “Who’s to blame?”
Well, after 4 years of working throughout this country we believe we can provide you with a concise answer to that incredibly complex question. This isn’t about guilting anyone or pointing the finger (there’s already too much of that going around), but it is a hard look at the answer to your question.
Based on Iraq’s history, here are 5 ways to destroy a nation’s healthcare system:
1. Limit a country’s ability to operate politically and economically
In 1990 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 661, which imposed broad, restrictive regulations upon Iraq. In a nutshell, these regulations stipulated that no country in the UN could import or receive any goods from the country.
Unfortunately, the sanctions did more than impede the political and military action of the Iraqi aggressors. The Iraqi economy, that had been so dependent upon oil exports and foreign trade, crashed as a direct result of the Resolution 661.
In 1989 Iraq’s gross domestic profit was over $66 billion. Just seven years later it was estimated as being $10.8 billion. In 1989, annual income per household was $3,510, and by 1996 had fallen to less than $500. Before the sanctions, 93% of the population had ready access to healthcare institutions, which were staffed primarily by physicians who had been trained in Europe or the United States.
This economic collapse primed the country for the health crisis it is in today, a health crisis that has lead to the death of inestimable millions over the last two decades.
2. Slash governmental healthcare funding
In the 1990′s Saddam Hussein cut spending on healthcare by 90%. Continued education, supplies of necessary equipment, and valuable public health programs all suffered without adequate funding research.
Without funding and governmental support, the healthcare system deteriorated.
3. Reduce the number of medical professionals in the country
In some areas, insurgents made it a practice of targeting medical professionals. Although many doctors were not individually targeted, they were still in danger. Ambulances were frequently robbed of their medical supplies, and it was not uncommon for gunmen to enter hospitals and force doctors to care for their injured family members or comrades.
Another blow was dealt to the stability of Iraq’s healthcare when many doctors and nurses, who were lucky enough to escape death, fled the country in a mass exodus, further damaging the quality of the Iraqi healthcare system.
The murder and exodus of Iraqi healthcare professionals is tragic. It has left many families broken and many patients without the care that they need. But the negative effects extend beyond their families and the patients they left behind. Without their mentor-ship, expertise, and knowledge, generations of students from universities and teaching hospitals will continue to have insubstantial educations.
4. Destroy physical healthcare infrastructure
In 2003 American and Coalition forces destroyed two primary public health laboratories and an estimated 12% of hospitals. While speaking about the state of the nation’s healthcare infrastructure, former Minister of Health of Iraq, Khudair Abbas, explained that of the remaining primary care centers, “15% have been looted. Even though 80% remain intact, 40% need extensive repairs…13% do not have clean water and one third are staffed primarily by paramedics rather than physicians”.
During the Gulf War, American and coalition forces destroyed key elements of Iraq’s infrastructure. “Bridges, communications, electricity supplies, water and sewage systems, weapons factories, healthcare facilities, administrative centers, warehouses” and homes were destroyed. While this may have been a strategy aimed at ceasing Iraq’s ability to make war, this strategy did far more than defeat the Iraqi military.
5. Overburden the healthcare system by creating too many patients
The above contributing factors deal primarily with political, structural, organizational, or educational deficits. Ultimately, however, it is the population of patients that compose the largest component of any healthcare system. And, regrettably, there is a vast population of patients in Iraq.
The demolition of water and sewage treatment plants lead to outbreaks of typhoid and cholera. In 1989, there were no cases of cholera per 100,000 people; just 5 years later there were 1,344 cases per 100,000 people.
According to studies, by 1996 31% of children under five were chronically malnourished. Just a year later, there were a million children under the age of five who were malnourished, and a year after that 70% of women were suffering from anemia. Another study, consistent with the information on malnutrition, found widespread, chronic stunting in school children as an indication of long-term malnutrition.
Poverty’s wide-spread negatively affects the livelihood of the Iraqi people. Low socioeconomic status is associated with lower levels of education, poorer nutritional intake, and higher risk of congenital heart defects.
Research shows that poor diet contributes to far more negative effects than weight loss, anemia, nutritional deficiency, and compromised immune system. Without the funds to afford healthier food, mothers with higher intake of saturated fats and lower intake of nicotinamide (vitamin B3) have increased risk of giving birth to children with congenital heart defects. 5, 8 Furthermore, low dietary intake levels of folic acid (vitamin B9) around the time of conception have been linked to higher risk of neural tube disorders.
But nutrition and education are not the sole arbiters of death and ill health. Many parts of the country still suffer from the chemical and biological attacks perpetrated by Saddam Hussein. Not only are individuals suffering from primary exposure, but research supports that children of those who were exposed suffer secondary effects in the form of birth defects.
The list of health problems and their contributing factors continues ad nauseam, and the patient-load continues to overwhelm doctors.
The evidence shows that the state of Iraq’s healthcare system has been nearly two decades in the making. The downward spiral began with sanctions in the 1990’s by making the nation more susceptible to economic collapse. It continued with a multitude of factors including military action by the US and Coalition forces, violence wrought by religious extremists, and a vast backlog of patients.
The question remains, is it too late for Iraqis to rebuild their healthcare system?
Is Iraq too far gone?
Of course not! The restoration of Iraq’s medical infrastructure is happening now!
This November 5th will be our biggest surgical mission yet–lives will be saved, doctors will be trained and Iraq will be one big step closer to restoring what was broken!
June 12, 2011 by Liz · Comments Off
For a month now we've posted mid-week photos titled “In a Word,” and we've received some great feedback from you guys.
We want you to know that these aren't just pretty pictures, they're tools to help as all build an understanding of Iraq through the artists who live here.
We know you care about the future of Iraq, the kids and the training of nurses and doctors, but we want to offer you even more perspectives.
So here are 3 reasons we believe “In A Word” matters:
1. Images can be used to promote peace.
“Peace is waged when a child is served, a voice is heard, a story is told, a dialogue is created, and a community is engaged.”
We're waging peace when we LISTEN to and TELL a story about Iraq, kids with CHD, local healthcare, local solutions (i.e. politicians, donors, doctors, etc.), Muslim and Eastern perspectives, Christian and Western perspectives, the war, etc. These photos give us the opportunity to engage another community. They tell stories and create dialogue.
They're opportunities for us to understand.
2. We live among the people here.
We work with them, care for them, argue with them – we love them. And many of you have expressed interest in what those things look like here, so “In A Word” is our way of helping you visualize our day-to-day. It helps our families, friends and supporters 'come around', and for a few seconds, that makes us feel like you aren't an ocean away.
3. It's a platform for artists.
These Iraqi and Kurdish artists are unsung heroes, and their work deserves to be showed off and shared. They show their people that beauty can bring hope and truth in the midst of devastation.
“In A Word” is a forum – a sounding board – where artists can show off their work and prove emphatically: we're here, and we're talented.
Do you have any photos that you'd like to submit for an “In A Word” midweek post? If so send to email@example.com, subject “In A Word”
“Heart surgery is an art.” Dr. William Novick, ICHF Heart Surgeon
If heart surgery is an art, then a Remedy Mission would be the art studio. It’s the place where teaching happens and inspiration is born. It’s a place where masterpieces are created alongside artists.
But it’s an art that everybody in the heart center gets to play a role in. Whereas an artist can create a beautiful piece on his own, a heart surgeon can’t perform a flawless surgery without a team around him. When they work together and finish their part, the piece is carefully passed along where it’s taken over by the nurses in the intensive care unit.
Without a strong nursing staff, the masterpiece would never be completed.
Teaching all of this is an art as well.
In the same day a local surgeon is having his skills refined as he patches a hole in a heart and the nurses in the ICU are being taught the foundations of nursing.
In the West, we have benefited from governments who have been able to spend BILLIONS on health care, education, and creating awareness about best practices, and things like hygiene from the time we were in elementary school.
At Iraq’s lowest point under Saddam, the Ba’ath regime spent less than one dollar per person on health care each year. While other parts of the world were thriving, Iraq’s health care system – along with their doctors and nurses – weren’t given what they needed to keep up.
Our Remedy Mission comes at a pivotal time in Iraq. A time where they now have the opportunity to be invest like never before.
It was sobering when we heard that little Alawi is trying to fight off a bacterial infection in his chest, something that is easily caused in an ICU which doesn’t even have a sink or soap with which to wash your hands. Don’t worry, we’re trying to work with local officials to get that retrofitted!
Through our Remedy Missions we’re helping raise up local health care systems that excel in the complex but also in the fundamentals of taking care of children.
All of it goes into creating a masterpiece.
We couldn’t do this without a coalition that cared as much about this as you do!
You’re a part of the masterpiece.
If you’re on Twitter this week be sure to use the #RemedyMission hashtag to describe all the good news coming out of Iraq this week via @preemptivelove.
Ahmed is prepared for surgery with our visiting cardiologist, Dr. Sri Rao, of the International Children’s Heart Foundation. Photo by Heber Vega
Ahmed’s 5 year battle to obtain his much-needed heart surgery is now a thing of the past after a 5.5 hour surgery that successfully corrected all five major heart defects! He’s now resting in ICU with his uncle who hasn’t left his side since his parents were seriously injured in a car crash this past week. If you haven’t read Ahmed’s story be sure to read it here.
We’ve all fallen in love with Ahmed, there’s no denying it. Today our joy is through the roof as we celebrate Ahmed’s life and the good news that both of his parents are recovering with him a few hours away in their home city!
Ahmed’s heart can now give his body everything it needs to run, jump, and shout for joy, thanks to you!
It’s always an exciting journey to the hospital each morning to see our kids. But tomorrow morning the trip is going to be special.
We can’t wait to see our friend, Ahmed.
Remedy Missions are international pediatric heart surgery teams that we bring to Iraq to to perform lifesaving heart surgeries and develop the infrastructure for the future. If you’re on Twitter this week be sure to use the #Remedy or #RemedyMission hashtag to describe all the good news coming out of Iraq this week via @preemptivelove and @babyheart_org. If you’re on Facebook, “Share” this story with the button below.
September 13, 2007 by Jeremy · Comments Off
Thanks to all of the journalists and newspapers who have put out time and effort to promote healthcare to Iraqi children through Buy Shoes. Save Lives. Check out the articles below to hear what they had to say (assuming you know English, Kurdish, or Arabic).Thanks!