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Health Action in Crises Highlights No 154 - 16 to 22 Apr 2007

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Each week, the World Health Organization Health Action in Crises in Geneva produces information highlights on the health aspects of selected humanitarian crises. Drawing on the various WHO programmes, contributions cover activities from field and country offices and the support provided by WHO regional offices and Headquarters. The mandate of the WHO Departments specifically concerned with Emergency and Humanitarian Action in Crises is to increase the effectiveness of the WHO contribution to crisis preparedness and response, transition and recovery. This note, which is not exhaustive, is designed for internal use and does not reflect any official position of the WHO Secretariat.

IRAQ

Assessments and events:

The total number of displaced people (IDPs) is estimated at 3.9 million, of which 2 million have sough refuge in neighbouring countries. Overall, up to 8 million are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

Health services are overstretched, particularly in areas most affected by violence and/or with greater concentrations of IDPs. In 2006, 36 000 persons were reported wounded, mostly from gunshots, shrapnel and burns. Each wave of injured patients further depletes the limited stocks available for other surgical interventions. Due to the emigration of experienced staff, health workers who remain often have to carry out procedures for which they received no formal training.

A nationwide mental health assessment conducted by the MoH and the Ministry of Planning in collaboration with WHO shows that 63% of the Iraqi adult population is subject to depression, while almost a third of adolescents are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

Actions:

WHO participates in the Strategic Framework for Humanitarian Action in Iraq that proposes to:

- Promote concerted humanitarian action by strengthening partnerships;

- Develop a strategy to maximize operability in the insecure environment;

- Establish centralized information collection, management and analysis;

- Develop and implement an advocacy strategy;

- Promote resources availability for agencies operating in Iraq, especially NGOs;

- Establish appropriate humanitarian coordination mechanisms.

A WHO/MoH team visited Erbil, Duhok and Suleymania in Northern Iraq to monitor the progress of the Family Health and Mental Health surveys.

The rehabilitation of the health infrastructure is ongoing. So far, two new mental health units and 19 training halls have been built; 128 primary health care units were rehabilitated, as well as seven mental health units, three public health laboratories, three nursing schools, four blood banks, three specialized centres, one environmental laboratory and one drug quality control laboratory.

WHO's emergency activities are funded by Japan and the UNDG ITF.