Iraq Healthcare System

Iraq’s healthcare system is classified as primary by the world health organization, which indicates it is based upon “practical, scientifically sound and socially acceptable methods and technologies made universally accessible to individuals and families in the community through their full participation in the spirit of self-reliance and self-determination.”[1]

The Iraqi healthcare system is in great need of rebuilding since the invasion of 2003 and fall of the Saddam regime. Numbers from the various surveys reflect this: According to MICS, the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys administered by UNICEF and the Iraqi government, the number of immunized children dropped from 60.7% in 2000 to 38.5% in 2006. It bounced back to 46.5% in 2011, but this number is still considerably lower than pre-invasion rates. According to the World Health Organization, in 2011 Iraq’s doctor to patient ratio was 7.8 to 10,000. This rate was exponentially lower than surrounding countries—Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine.

Iraq Health Insurance

Currently 96.4% of Iraqi-s are without health insurance. There is no health insurance system to serve the public, and so they rely on the Iraqi central government-run public health care system, with little advocacy or diversity of treatment options.

Saddam Era Healthcare

From 1993-2003 the Saddam regime reduced public health expenditure by 90 %. This resulted in a serious deterioration within the healthcare system, with salaries of medical personnel decreasing and malnutrition and water-borne diseases becoming more and more common.

In 2003 the American Invasion unfortunately destroyed nearly 12 percent of Iraq’s hospitals and two public health laboratories. However, the US occupation and subsequent international aide spurred the operation of 240 hospitals and 1200 primary health care centers.

Current Key Players in Iraq Healthcare system

The World Health Organization Representative’s Office in Iraq “supports the Government and health authorities at central and local level in strengthening health services, addressing public health issues and supporting and promoting research for health. Physicians, public health specialists, scientists, social scientists and epidemiologists provide appropriate technical support and collaboration upon the request or acceptance of national authorities.”

Other key players include USAID, United Nations agencies, such as UNDP, other humanitarian organizations as well as development partners.

Cancer in Iraq

The top concern among most governorates in Iraq is the increasing rise of cancer rates. When interviewing the government of Kurdistan, one official reported that the number one priority of service provision was oncology centers. The need for these oncology treatment centers is great as increasingly diagnosed patients are having to seek treatment outside Iraq—in more developed countries with stronger healthcare systems, such as Dubai, Lebanon, or the United States.

Patients pay a high price for travel expenses and for healthcare outside Iraq, but they are willing to do so because the treatment in these regions is of much more quality than what is offered in Iraq.

Healthcare Treatment in Iraq

According to one Iraqi resident, living in Kirkuk, the Iraqi healthcare system is not nearly as beneficial as foreign healthcare systems. She was diagnosed with a spinal injury and was told she needed surgery. She researched the cost of surgery in Kirkuk—and was quoted the price of $7,000. Because her native Iraqi hospital did not offer post-operative care (she would be allowed to stay in the hospital only until the evening after the surgery, and then would have to return home right away), she chose to travel outside Iraq to receive the surgery, for a sum total of $10,000. She chose to receive the surgery outside Iraq so she could receive follow-up treatment and care for her surgery, and not risk infection by going home the same day.

Investment Opportunity

There are significant investment opportunity within the healthcare sector in Iraq. The anecdotal evidence cited above is common among native Iraqi residents. Their perception of their own healthcare system is not positive, and is suspicious. The Iraqi central and local governments are aware of the gaps in their current system and are seeking guidance to fill these. Please contact for more information on how you can participate in the development of this important sector.

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