Mosul still lacks 70% of healthcare capacity after one year since IS battle ended, says Médecins Sans Frontières

MOSUL, IRAQ - MARCH 22: A view of Mosul's Old City from an Iraqi forces sniper position in Adedat, a neighbourhood in the Old City of west Mosul, the last area of the city under Islamic State control, June 22, 2017. Iraqi forces have encountered stiff resistance with improvised explosives, car bombs, heavy mortar fire and snipers hampering their advance. (Martyn Aim/ Getty Images)

It has been over a year since the battle between the Islamic State (IS) group and the Iraqi forces had officially ended in Mosul, according to Al Jazeera.

Yet, the health system is still in ruins and struggling to cope as thousands of people continue to return to the city, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said on 9 July.

During the conflict, 9 out of 13 public hospitals were damaged in Mosul, slashing healthcare capacity and the number of hospital beds by 70 percent.

The reconstruction of health facilities has been extremely slow and there are still less than 1,000 hospital beds for a population of 1.8 million people, which is half of the internationally recognised minimum standards for health service delivery in a humanitarian context.

“Accessing healthcare services is a daily challenge for thousands of children and adults in Mosul,” said Heman Nagarathnam, MSF’s Head of Mission in Iraq.

The scars on 18-year-old Anoud’s face show only a fraction of the pain she has endured over the past year. In 2017, her family’s house in Hawija, central Iraq, was hit by a bomb. Credit: MSF/Sacha Myers

In May 2018, MSF received 3,557 cases in the ER of its west Mosul hospital.

790 of these cases were trauma-related.

95 percent of the 790 cases were caused by unsafe living conditions, such as people falling off damaged buildings or walls or buildings collapsing on people.

“Emergency room services and surgical, oncology and burns facilities are urgently required, as well as medical equipment and a steady and affordable supply of medication.”

“Other needs include mental health services for people coping with the trauma of violence and losing loved ones, and follow-up surgery, pain management and physiotherapy for war-wounded patients who have been suffering for months because they have not been able to access the healthcare they need to recover from their injuries.”

Forty-two-year-old Nashwan was shot in the leg and back by a sniper in Mosul in March 2017 when he was buying food. Since then, he has lived in agony with his injury and has been unable to access adequate healthcare.

“When I was at home…the pain started to grow in my leg and hip, and eventually it was unbearable,” Nashwan said.

“So I went to the general hospital in October 2017 in west Mosul. They did x-rays and tests and they said I needed a huge operation and they didn’t have the capacity to do the operation.”

Nashwan, 42, sits in his hospital bed in Mosul, northern Iraq. Nashwan is one of the many war-wounded patients still trying to recover a year after the conflict in Mosul officially ended. Credit: MSF/Sacha Myers

“Life has been really hard. My injury has impacted negatively on my life – my family, the way I interact with my kids. I can’t play with them. I can’t work and we haven’t had an income. I’ve been really depressed.”

Nashwan is now receiving treatment in MSF’s surgical and post-operative care facility in east Mosul.

The dangerous living conditions in Mosul – poor hygiene due to a lack of water and electricity, damaged buildings and the presence of improvised explosive devices and booby traps – also pose a risk to people’s health and increase the need for healthcare facilities.

At MSF’s hospital in west Mosul, the team saw in the past 12 months a shift from war-related wounds, to mine injuries, and more recently, injuries and medical issues related to poor living conditions as more people return to the city.

Anoud is currently looking after her eight-year-old sister, Bushra, who is receiving treatment in a Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) surgery and post-operative care unit in east Mosul. Credit: MSF/Sacha Myers

In May this year, 95 percent of trauma cases received in the emergency room (ER) were related to the unsafe living conditions – such as falling rubble, buildings collapsing or people falling from unstable structures.

“It’s been one year since the conflict officially ended in Mosul, and much more needs to be done in the coming year to improve access to healthcare,” Mr Nagarathnam said.

“MSF is calling on national authorities and the international community to urgently rebuild public health infrastructure, provide patients with access to affordable medication and ensure medial facilities are supplied with the necessary equipment.

MSF has been operating in Iraq since 1991 and works in the governorates of Anbar, Baghdad, Diyala, Erbil, Kirkuk and Ninewa.

MSF currently runs a hospital in west Mosul, specialising in maternity, paediatrics and ER services, and a surgery and post-operative care facility for war-wounded patients in east Mosul.

Starting this month, MSF will start providing mental health services in primary healthcare clinics in the east and west side of the city.

MSF offers neutral and impartial medical assistance regardless of race, religion, gender or political affiliation.

To ensure its independence, MSF does not accept funding from any government or international agency for its programs in Iraq, relying solely on private donations from the general public around the world to carry out its work.

— Sarah Bagharib, Communications Officer Singapore, Médecins Sans Frontières Hong Kong

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