Iraq

WHO calls for more investment in health in Iraq

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18-19 July l Dead Sea, Jordan - Representatives of more than 60 countries and international organizations, including the UN and World Bank, gather today in Jordan to review progress and lessons learned from donor-financed reconstruction activities in Iraq. During the 4th international meeting WHO, as coordinator of the UN health cluster, urgently calls upon governments to maintain financial investment and reconsider investment for health needs in Iraq.

Since 2004, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, WHO has developed a four-year reconstruction plan, met urgent needs, strengthened management and built capacity. The Organization has offered public health training to more than 5000 professionals, supported polio vaccination campaigns for some 5 million children and is rehabilitating over 300 health care facilities in Iraq.

To date, contributions to the UN sum up to $ 600 million, of which $ 72 million is allocated to the health sector. With generous support from governments such as Japan, Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Commission, WHO has invested $ 37 million in primary health care services, $ 11 million in mental health care and non-communicable diseases, $ 6 million in water safety and $ 6 million in safe drugs. Within its program, WHO has invested $ 6.5 million in training health professionals including nurses, midwifes, pharmacists and food safety officers in Iraq.

The UN's strength lies in its broad mandate and technical competencies. Despite the limited presence of international staff, the UN is present with hundreds of national employees. The UN's relations with the Iraqi authorities provides a solid basis for on-going institutional development and capacity building as well as provides critical linkages to other clusters related to health.

The United Nations Development Group (UNDG) develops policies and procedures that allow member agencies to work together in Iraq. Partners in the health cluster are WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, UHCHR, UNDP, UNEP, UNIFEM, WFP, UNIDO and IOM. These agencies work closely with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Higher Education and Ministry of Environment in addition to close coordination with the World Bank, international organizations, and various international and national NGOs.

During his meeting with the UN Deputy Special Representative for Iraq, Dr Hussein A. Gezairy, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean stated, "that the people of Iraq are facing a range of health hazards related to insecurity and poverty. Critical challenges for the country are support for trauma, essential medicines, maternal and child health and communicable disease control. A short-term priority is access to safe water and food in order to control communicable diseases such as typhoid and cholera."

With an estimated budget of $ 15 million for the next six months, WHO could repair water and sewage systems, provide essential drugs to the Iraqi people, and implement a school health education programme in Iraq. WHO hopes that this meeting will come up with commitments from donor countries in order to provide further support to Iraq.

While maintaining close collaboration with the Ministry of Health and other line ministries, WHO will continue working together with all partners for a healthier Iraq.

For more information contact:

Dr Naeema Al-Gasseer, WHO Representative for Iraq and UN Health Cluster Task Manager, Telephone: +962 79 684 555 8, Email: algasseern@irq.who.emro.int

Sabine van Tuyll, Communications Officer, Telephone: +962 79 504 495 6, Email: wriraq@irq.emro.who.int