Mosul residents decry poor medical conditions

Many hospitals destroyed during the war to dislodge ISIS from Mosul have not been rebuilt.
Sunday 16/12/2018
Broken system. A view of Mosul General Hospital. (Azhar Al-Rubaie)
Broken system. A view of Mosul General Hospital. (Azhar Al-Rubaie)

MOSUL, Iraq - One year has passed since Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State (ISIS) but residents of Mosul say medical facilities in the northern Iraqi city are far from adequate.

Patients complain of a shortage of medicine, doctors and medical staff as well as hospital beds. Many hospitals destroyed during the war to dislodge ISIS from Mosul have not been rebuilt.

Majdaldean Qusay, a 32-year-old patient, was sitting on the ground outside Mosul General Hospital, holding his medical reports. “The MRI exam is only available in private hospitals but it costs $80. How can I pay for treatment when all I could afford is paying for a taxi (to get to the hospital)?” he asked.

Saadallah Abdulaziz Khuder, the director of the Mosul General Hospital, said ISIS destroyed advanced medical devices in the hospital, including MRI and Echo machines.

The hospital also reports a shortage of medicine and anaesthetic drugs, said Khuder, who appealed for government aid.

“We received support from many international organisations, some of which sent patients outside Iraq to get treatment, but this is short-term support. We need the help of government support because it is long term,” Khuder said.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) is supporting the work of mobile clinics in Mosul.

“We offer a free medical treatment for civilians who visit us in our mobile clinics in Mosul,” said Sadiq al-Rumaithi, a coordinator for a medical programme supported by UNFPA. “Whether it’s in the summer heat or winter cold, our motives to support affected people didn’t diminish.”

Batool Naeem is a Karbala-based doctor who worked for a year on a project, backed by the UNFPA, focusing on sexual health and reproduction in Mosul.

She said she never thought of going to Mosul until she saw on television a woman delivering a child in the city without medical care. She decided to help despite reservations from her family.

“It was not easy to convince my family to go to unsafe areas because society does not accept the idea of a young woman travelling alone to a war zone but, in the end, I managed to gain their support,” said Naeem.

Naeem said she saw people suffering from various physical illnesses but she was particularly shaken when a young girl, in tears, asked for pain relief.

“I’m not physically sick. I am in pain because I lost my seven brothers and my father in one day at the hands of ISIS. Can you relieve me of that pain?” Naeem recalled the girl pleading. “I’ll never forget that situation. I’ll remember it my entire life,” said Naeem.

Aside from international bodies, Mosul has received help from volunteers.

Sorror Abdulkareem al-Husseiny, a 23-year-old nurse from Mosul, said because of the lack of medics, she voluntarily trained hundreds of people on first aid so they could help themselves and others in emergencies. She also led a volunteer campaign to recover bodies buried in the rubble.

“Corpses under the rubble caused many diseases for the locals and I called on the local government to dig the bodies out. However, when I got no response from the government, I decided to form a voluntary team called ‘Sorror’ and we unearthed more than 1,350 bodies in five months,” Husseiny said.

Adel Mahmoud, an X-ray technician at Ibn al-Atheer teaching hospital, one of the largest health facilities for children in eastern Mosul, said the government had not replaced medical facilities burned by ISIS.

“The government is unable to provide the basic medical needs. The hospitals need to be rehabilitated because it is not suitable to receive patients,” said Mahmoud.

Inside Mosul General Hospital waits Omar Sami, a 35-year-old patient who had lost his hearing.

“US aircraft bombed a place nearby my house. I was just 50 metres away,” he said. “I lost consciousness and I woke up to see myself in a hospital bed, having lost hearing in both my ears. I cannot describe how I felt that moment.”

“I asked the Iraqi government for compensation but to no avail,” Sami added.

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