Regional Report - Iraq

Mixed reaction to government
allowing doctors to carry guns

There has been a mixed reaction in Iraq to a government decision to allow doctors to
carry guns for their own protection, reports IRIN news.

“This decision implies the security situation is still unstable and that doctors are still in
danger,” said Dr Mohammed Khalil Ali, a 33-year old gynaecologist and obstetrician who moved to the more peaceful semi-autonomous northern Kurdistan region earlier this year.

“Carrying weapons is not the solution as the possessor must be well-trained. It could… prompt a vicious attack from the assailant,” Dr Ali told IRIN from Arbil, one of three
provinces that make up the Kurdish region.

On 29 September, the Iraqi Government decided to allow every doctor to carry a gun for personal protection, and approved the construction of secure residential compounds inside and around hospitals to ensure security for doctors and their families.

Dozens of doctors have been killed and thousands of others have fled the country since the US-led invasion in 2003.

Dr Ali warned that doctors with weapons could lead to “security chaos”, saying it was the job of the security forces to ensure law and order.

However, Dr Essam Jaafar Hassan, a 36-year-old dermatologist at Baghdad’s Medical
City, gave a cautious welcome to the move.

“Though belated, I welcome [the move] but I can’t imagine carrying a pistol,” said Dr
Hassan, adding: “At least we will have something with which to defend ourselves legally.”


In August the Iraqi Ministry of Health (MoH) set up a committee to look into ways and means of persuading doctors to return to the country, including assistance with travel costs and increased salaries. Some 800 doctors have returned, according to MoH figures
released in September. The flight of thousands of doctors either to northern Iraq or neighbouring countries has left the medical care system almost paralysed, said observers.

Earlier this year the ministry said 618 medical employees, including 132 doctors, had been
killed since 2003.

Cholera outbreak infects hundreds

The number of confirmed cases of cholera in southern and central Iraq has been rising steadily in an outbreak that began on 20 August. As of 5 October some 418 cases had been reported with six dead.

“We’ve registered 418 cholera cases in 10 provinces so far: Babil 222 cases, Baghdad 71, Basra 44, Karbala 34, Qadissiyah 30, Anbar seven, Najaf five, Maysan three, and Diyala and Kut one case each,” Ihsan Jaafar, director-general of the public health directorate and spokesman for the ministry's cholera control unit, told IRIN news.

He said that of the newly registered cases 228 were males and 190 females; in 159 cases the patients’ ages were 5-70, with all other cases being among the under fives.

About 25km to the west of Qadissiyah’s capital, Diwaniyah, residents of al-Kafi village (population 4,000), where one of the most recent deaths occurred, complained about poor public infrastructure and health services and called for immediate help.

“Municipality and health services are not available and we totally depend on the river to get our drinking water. The river, which we share with animals, has caused about 20 cholera cases in our village,” said Sheik Jawad Kadhim Diwan, a tribal leader.

“We call upon the government and the presidential council to save the lives of these people by supplying us with safe drinking water, and to start infrastructure projects as a matter of urgency,” Diwan added.

The Iraqi Health Ministry and the World Health Organization have blamed the country’s rundown water and sanitation infrastructure for the outbreak.

ate of upload: 16th November 2008

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