Iraq's health-care program still lacking
September 5, 2003
ARLINGTON, Va. — Under the former government, Iraqis received less than a dollar's worth of health care. Today, it’s much more than that.
Under direction of the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority, the per capita amount for health care hovers around $20; still not enough, but far greater than what they were accustomed to, a health official said.
In 2002, the Saddam Hussein-led government budgeted a total of $16 million for the health care of Iraq’s 23 million people. It was woefully inadequate, said Jim Haveman, the CPA’s senior advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of Health.
The allotment amounted to roughly 70 cents per person, drastically lower than the $80 per person spent on health care by neighboring Jordan, Haveman cited as an example Thursday during a Pentagon press briefing.
The U.S. military role within the health ministry is comparatively small to the rest of operations.
The military has supplied a handful of physicians, workers occasionally will use field hospitals and surgeons treat people in outlying villages and areas, said Haveman, who has been working in Iraq since June.
Some of the ministry’s $210 million budget, funding for July through December, also will pay for the varying challenges facing the coalition, to include repairing or rebuilding dilapidated hospitals and clinics, upgrading equipment, training emergency medical technicians, and teaching ill-trained physicians the newest in health-care procedures, said Haveman, the former head of the Michigan Health Department.
He anticipates the health ministry’s budget for fiscal 2004 will range between $600 million and $800 million.
While “there are no epidemics” ailing Iraqis, their overall health is far worse than other countries in the region and citizens are in dire need of help, Haveman said.
For example, the infant mortality rate is 108 per 1,000 infants, far higher than the seven-to-1,000 affected in the United States.
“That’s one of the highest in the world,” he said.
His staff has a goal of cutting that in half by 2005.
About 60 percent to 70 percent of women of childbearing age are anemic, and there has been a considerable increase in the number of cancer patients in the Kurdish north, possibly as a result of exposure to chemical attacks in the past, he said. An epidemiological team is studying the issue.
“There are challenges, but all the challenges are doable,” he said.