WHO and Iraqi MOH endorse joint action to meet health needs of the country

In early February, Dr Ala Alwan, WHO’s Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, met senior health officials from the Ministry of Health in Baghdad and local and international health partners to discuss a number of emerging health needs and challenges in the country. Dr Alwan and Dr Adila Hammoud, the Iraqi Minister of Health, endorsed a joint WHO/Ministry of Health biennial cooperation plan for 2016–2017.

“The health needs in Iraq are enormous. WHO has been working closely with the Ministry of Health to implement strategic health objectives and reach more people with better health care and more life-saving services,” said Dr Alwan. “In 2016, WHO and the Ministry of Health will focus on the rehabilitation of health services in the newly liberated areas in Anbar, Salah-El-Din and Ninawa in addition to addressing a number of public health issues in Iraq and ensuring availability of an essential health services package to returnees in these areas.”

The current fiscal, security and humanitarian crisis has overwhelmed the health system in the country and compromised accessibility to and quality of health services in a number of areas. An estimated 84% of health facilities are either partially or totally non-functional in security-compromised governorates like Anbar, Ninawa, Salah-El-Din, Diyala and Kirkuk, making it a necessity to rehabilitate these facilities in the newly liberated areas, in particular, to reach returnees with guaranteed access to essential health services.

In 2015, WHO supported the Ministry of Health to improve health systems governance and resilience and respond to the emergency health needs of the most vulnerable populations, such as internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, and host communities. The support has also included among other key achievements, the provision of curative and preventive public healthcare centre services and implementation of 5 national polio and measles immunization campaigns administering 5.4 million polio vaccines alone to 5.8 million children under 5 years of age. Similarly, WHO, UNICEF and other partners, have supported the Government of Iraq in successively bringing an end to a massive cholera outbreak and in protecting vulnerable populations through a cholera vaccination campaign, during which a total of 510,000 doses of cholera vaccine were administered to 255,000 IDPs and Syrian refugees in 62 camps in 2 vaccination rounds carried out in October and December last year.

Egypt, World Bank partner to improve primary health care in the country

President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi issued a decree in January approving amendments to the cooperation project signed between Egypt and the World Bank in the healthcare sector, to support an initiative to improve the quality of primary healthcare across the country.

The project, previously known as the Medical Insurance Development project, will be now titled the “Healthcare Quality Improvement Project (HQIP)”.

The cooperation project was agreed upon between the two sides in May last year.

Sisi also approved amending the loan agreement signed between the two sides to fund this project.

The HQIP aims to assist primary healthcare facilities in Egypt’s poorest 1,000 villages to meet national healthcare quality standards by improving the quality of service delivery through accreditation and enhanced operations and maintenance of publicly owned primary healthcare facilities in targeted areas.

The project supports Egypt’s vision to achieve universal health coverage for an essential package of health services by 2030, and takes the first steps in a multi-year program to help provide Egyptians with access to more equitable, affordable, quality healthcare.

Indonesian Hospital opens in northern Gaza

The Palestinian Health Ministry officially opened the Indonesian Hospital on 27 December last year. The hospital is located just outside Jabalya, Gaza’s largest refugee camp, and is serving around 250 patients a day from northern Gaza, after the closure of Kamel Odwan Hospital.

Indonesia’s Medical Emergency Rescue Committee took five years to build the hospital.

The hospital has 110 beds, four operating rooms, 10 ICU beds and 10 emergency beds. It has comprehensive medical support facilities, such as 24-hour clinic, CT scanner and other devices.

Spokesman for the Ministry Ashraf Qudra said that the new hospital will serve as the main hospital for the 300,000 people in northern Gaza. The hospital has been named Rumah Sakit Indonesia.

According to Reuters, a Qatar-funded centre for prosthetics, is expected to open in Gaza this year. Prosthetics are much in demand in Gaza where repeated conflicts with Israel have left thousands of people with missing limbs.

Turkey is also building health facilities in Gaza and the West Bank.

WHO sets up regional centre for health emergencies and polio eradication

As part of efforts to strengthen its response to emergencies in the Region and to continue the fight against polio, the World Health Organization (WHO) has established a regional centre for health emergencies and polio eradication in Amman, Jordan. The centre was inaugurated 17 January this year in an opening ceremony held under the patronage of HRH Princess Muna Al-Hussein of Jordan.

“In our Region, the number of people in need of basic health services as a result of emergencies is unprecedented, and the pressures placed on WHO to respond is greater than ever. Around two-thirds of countries in the Region are either experiencing conflict or affected by conflict. More than half the world’s refugees come from our Region, and we also host the world’s largest number of internally displaced populations,” Dr Alwan, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, noted. “Iraq, Syria, and Yemen are just three in a list of countries in the Region requiring large-scale, ongomiddle ing humanitarian health assistance,” said Dr Alwan. “As we scale up our regional capacity to respond to emergencies, the emergency team based here in Amman will have a key role in ensuring that in all 22 countries of the Region, WHO is better prepared to respond to current and new crises,” Dr Alwan added.

WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Region is faced with an extremely complex humanitarian situation, with several countries in emergency situations due to protracted conflict, insecurity, and associated mass population movement. WHO has been active in supporting emergency health interventions in these settings and in coordinating health sector support with governments and partners. The reorganization of the regional emergency programme is intended to provide increased support from both Amman and Cairo.

In addition to humanitarian emergencies, the Region also continues to battle for the final eradication of polio, which the World Health Assembly has declared a public health emergency of international concern. Pakistan and Afghanistan, both in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, are the only two countries in the world where the disease remains endemic. In 2015, substantial success was achieved towards realizing the goal of eradication, as outbreaks that occurred in the Middle East and Horn of Africa were contained following massive multi-country immunization responses, carried out effectively despite conflict and population displacement. Wild poliovirus was also substantially reduced in Pakistan, to 52 cases in 2015 compared to 306 in 2014.

“Now, the key to finally eradicating polio from the whole world is the intense work being carried out to interrupt transmission in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” said Chris Maher, Manager of WHO’s polio eradication programme. “We are in a very hopeful situation but a great deal of work still needs to be done if we are to succeed,” he added.

GE Healthcare to equip new Al Kafeel Super Specialty Hospital in Karbala

GE Healthcare has underlined its commitment to Iraq’s healthcare infrastructure by fully equipping a state-of-the-art new hospital in Karbala with cutting edge healthcare equipment and services. The new Al Kafeel Super Specialty Hospital, a privately owned facility managed by the Holy Attaba Abbasiah, is the first of its kind to open in the country in the past 15 years, which provides comprehensive care across all disciplines for the local community.

GE Healthcare has provided an entire suite of modern technologies for the 200- bed, 25,000 sqm hospital, to help provide better access and outcomes for inpatients and outpatients. GE’s technologies include CT, MRI, ultrasound and monitoring solutions to support multiple disciplines, from maternity and neonatal care to cardiology and surgery. GE will also provide equipment training to Iraqi professionals – both onsite and remote.

The city of Karbala has a population of over 900,000 residents and more than 10 million visitors travel there every year for pilgrimage to Al-Abbas Holy Shrine. Its healthcare facilities have been deteriorating for the past few years due to war and hospitals and clinics have lacked the basic equipment and supplies to meet demand. Some Iraqis are able to travel abroad for medical care; however, most cannot afford to seek services from private providers within Iraq’s borders.

Dubai Healthcare City Authority, Dubai Health Authority form partnership to improve health services

Dubai Healthcare City Authority (DHCA) and Dubai Health Authority (DHA) have formed a partnership to strengthen the health sector in the emirate.

The authorities signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to this effect on 18 January 2016.

The MoU will see the authorities enhancing healthcare services for local and foreign patients. DHCA and DHA will work together to integrate health policies and procedures towards health provision and collaborate on increasing access to services such as medical fitness centers, and mandatory health insurance.

The partnership will create synergy in licensing standards for healthcare professionals and healthcare operators.

“Dubai Health Authority is keen on strategic partnerships and is ready to open its doors to collaborate with stakeholders and other organizations to develop Dubai’s health system,” said Humaid Al Qatami, Chairman of the Board and Director- General of DHA.

The agreement focuses on maximizing benefits for both and fostering knowledge exchange from policies and regulations to harnessing healthcare expertise, he explained. “Our combined objective represents a unified vision and our aspirations to make Dubai and its health system a globally recognized model.”

The partnership will advance medical education and develop a qualified healthcare workforce through cooperation in programs for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and medical research.

Dr Raja Al Gurg, Vice-Chairperson and Executive Director of DHCA, said: “Shaping the future of the emirate’s health system is a commitment we have as Dubai Healthcare City Authority. Developing the right mechanism for a health system requires planning and foresight as well as sound policymaking. The health agenda for the emirate of Dubai has to move beyond the provision of specialized influencing the health status of each and every individual who calls Dubai their home.”

Saudi seeks foreign investment in health sector

According to a report in the International Business Times, Saudi Arabia made a pitch to foreign investors at the recent Wold Economic Forum in Davos, saying the kingdom was open for foreign direct investment in its healthcare sector.

Khalid al-Falih, Saudi Health Minister and Chairman of the board of Saudi Aramco, said: “We’re literally opening the door wide open for foreign direct investment.”

He said that the kingdom is seeking investors “who are willing to come to Saudi Arabia and take advantage of the next phase of development, which is going to be significant”.

According to the report, the Saudi Government is facing mounting pressure to diversify the oil-rich economy. With the price of crude having fallen sharply in recent months, Saudi Arabia’s revenues from oil exports are rapidly diminishing. The Saudi government said it expected to post a budget deficit of $87 billion this year – about 13.3% of its gross domestic product – on top of last year’s deficit of $98 billion.

WHO sends mission to Saudi to assess fight against MERS  

A joint mission led by the World Health Organization (WHO) to assess Saudi Arabia’s efforts against MERS-CoV said 26 January that the country has made progress and is ready to take the next proactive steps, such as better surveillance in camels.

The WHO joint mission to Saudi Arabia took place from Jan 11 through 14 and included visits to health and agriculture ministries, hospitals in Riyadh and Hofuf, labs, a camel research facility, and a camel slaughterhouse and market in Hofuf, according to a report posted by the WHO Eastern Mediterranean regional office.

The event marked the third recent joint MERS mission to the country. The previous one came in August in the wake of a large hospital outbreak in Riyadh.

Some of the group’s goals were to observe Saudi Arabia’s surveillance for the disease, its latest hospital infection and prevention protocols, case investigation capabilities, and research priorities.

The experts gave Saudi Arabia good marks for getting its MERS-CoV command center up and running, which has laid good groundwork for an effective public health response, they said. They added, however, that the system’s full potential is not yet being met.

The mission found that surveillance for detecting and monitoring suspected and confirmed MERS-CoV cases has improved, now that an electronic Web-based system is up and running. They noted, though, that the systems are mainly “responsive” and that the next step would be a sentinel surveillance system to look for severe acute respiratory infections to help flag problems earlier and reduce the risk of missed cases.

Camel surveillance, however, is still in planning stages, with few resources for implementing monitoring of the disease in the animals before infections occur in humans, the team found. They also pointed out that health and agriculture ministries are collaborating more on primary case investigations, though they are still conducting their probes separately.

Hospital outbreaks have declined at health ministry hospitals, but challenges remain at other hospitals, according to the group. Lessons learned from a large outbreak at a National Guard hospital led to infection prevention and control improvements at other National Guard hospitals, but so far such experiences are being shared only within health systems, and not between them.

Saudi Arabia has set up a committee to identify and fund research priorities, but it’s not clear how sharp the focus will be on epidemiologic research that can help answer key public health questions, the experts said.

For the country’s next priorities to stepup the response to MERS-CoV, the joint mission group had five main recommendations. They included appointing a leader with the necessary authority to fully implement and expand the nation’s strategy for controlling the disease.

The recommendations also included increasing collaboration between health and agriculture ministries, addressing research priorities flagged by earlier MERS-CoV expert groups, documenting and sharing infection prevention and control lessons, and making the control centre a multisector body to deliver a coordinated, consistent approach.

Following months of blocked access, WHO medical supplies reach Taiz City, Yemen  

Following months of blocked access to Taiz City, Yemen, and in response to mounting emergency health needs, the World Health Organization (WHO) managed to deliver more than 20 tonnes of medicines and medical supplies. These medical supplies are critical to meet the most urgent needs in a city where more than 200,000 people have been living under siege with limited access to humanitarian aid.

The health supplies, which had been blocked from entering the city since early December, were finally delivered to Al-Thawra, Al-Jumhoori, Al-Rawdha and Al-Ta’aon hospitals as of 31 January. The supplies include trauma kits, interagency emergency health kits, diarrhoeal disease kits and 170 oxygen cylinders, enough for around 35,000 beneficiaries. Additionally, dialysis solutions were facilitated to Al-Thawra Hospital for 30,000 dialysis sessions for one year.

“Hospital staff in Taiz City are desperate for medicines and medical supplies so that they can continue to offer the most basic medical care. The delivery of these WHO supplies is a huge step that we are hoping will pave the way for the provision of more medical support to the city,” said Dr Ahmed Shadoul, WHO Representative in Yemen.

Since April 2015, the ongoing violence and insecurity continues to limit the delivery of aid in Taiz City. Three districts in Taiz City – Al Mudhaffar, Al Qahirah and Salah – still remain inaccessible and people are in urgent need of food, safe water and life-saving health services. Many hospitals have been forced to close their intensive care units due to a lack of fuel, medicines and health staff. Patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease and cancer are struggling to access essential medicines and dialysis centres.


Date of upload: 15th Mar 2016

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