Dohuk Displaced appeal for maternity ward in camps

Mam Rashan camp for internally displaced people in Akre district, Dohuk governorate. KirkukNow

By Ammar Aziz in Duhok

The Internally Displaced Persons IDP residing in Dohuk Northern Province demand the opening of a hospital or a maternity section in the health centers in the camps, in order to seek refuge in them in emergency cases.

According to a field follow-up conducted by (KirkukNow) correspondent, out of the 15 camps within the borders of Dohuk, only one camp includes a maternity section.

“Opening the maternity ward is a necessary need for us, because there are hundreds of poor families who do not have cars to take pregnant women to city hospitals when in pain or giving birth,” said Samira Badal, 38, who lives in Kabatw IDP camp.

“Others cannot manage the costs of childbirth in private hospitals, so a maternity ward can be opened inside the camp, a demand by all women in the camps,” she added.

there are hundreds of poor families who do not have cars to take pregnant women to city hospitals when in pain or giving birth

Samira has been living in the camp for eight years, and three of her children were born in the hospitals of the Dohuk, because there were no hospitals or maternity wards in the camps.

Kabartw camp, which is about half an hour away by car from the center of Dohuk, previously included a maternity ward, but it was closed more than a year ago. Kabartw 1 and 2 camps in Sumel District are home to nearly five thousand displaced families, almost 24,000 people. There are more than 664,000 IDPs in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq KRI, some of whom are staying under tents in 26 camps in Duhok, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah northern provinces.

Iraq’s healthcare system which was once one of the most advanced in the region now is in serious crisis. There’s a shortage of drugs and the medical staff to administer it. Over the past three decades the country has been ravaged by Iraqi-Iran war, Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, ousting of Saddam regime followed by sectarian violence, the war against al-Qaeda and the rise of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria ISIS.

The political chaos after 2003, pushed an estimated 15,000 out of 52,000 registered Iraqi doctors to leave the country. The young student doctors primarily seek training and life abroad rather than permanent state employment.

The matters are worse in the IDP camps run by the KRG and Baghdad. About 325,000 IDPs live in Dohuk, 135,000 of them living under tents in 15 camps, and the rest 189,000 reside outside the camps, paying for their own accommodation.

campi kabartoo

Dohuk, 2019: The road leading to Kabartw camp for displaced. Ammar Aziz 

Dayan Jaafar, Director of the Department of Migration and Displacement and Crisis Response of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Dohuk, acknowledged that the lack of a maternity ward is a problem in some camps, such as Kabartw.

According to the follow-ups of (KirkukNow), there is a maternity section in Rawanga (Qadiya) camp, which shelters 2,433 families, about 13,000 ​​people.

"There are health centers in all the camps, some of which used to have maternity wards, but they were closed due to the decline in the support that some organizations provided," Jaafar said.

During relative stability, Iraq has missed opportunities to expand and rebuild its healthcare system. In 2019, Baghdad allocated only 2.5% of the state’s $106.5 billion budget to health ministry, while security forces received 18% and the oil ministry 13.5%, a story by the Reuters found.

Data from the World Health Organization WHO shows, Iraq’s central government has consistently spent far less per capita on healthcare than its much poorer neighbors - $161 per citizen each year on average, compared to Jordan’s $304 and Lebanon’s $649.

They were closed due to the decline in the support that some organizations provided

In the past few months, some humanitarian organizations, including World Food Program WFP, stopped the financial aid they were providing to the displaced people living in the camps.

Pir Alo Kajal, director of Khanki camp, near Khanky complex, affirmed there is only a health center that provides services until 2 pm, and these services include ambulances, so in emergency cases the camp residents have to take a 20 minutes’ drive to reach the nearest hospital.

Khanki camp shelters more than 14,000 IDPs beside nearly 10,000 IDPs reside outside the camp.

"We repeatedly asked to open the maternity ward and we raised their demands to the relevant organizations and authorities whom showed content to say that it will open soon and nothing is in sight."

(KirkukNow) was unable to obtain statistics on the number of new births among the displaced families.

In some other camps, such as the six camps within the borders of Zakho administration in Duhok, which do not have maternity sections, ambulances have been allocated to transport pregnant women and other emergency cases.

The head of the media department at Zakho General Hospital, Amir Ali, told (KirkukNow), "There are no maternity wards in the camps, but ambulances are there 24 hours a day to transport patients and maternity cases to the city's hospitals."

Afrasiab Musa Younis, Director General of Health in Dohuk Governorate, told (KirkukNow), "We cannot open a maternity ward in every camp, because this requires providing financial support and allocating health cadres, and this matter is beyond our capabilities unless the Iraqi government helps us."

Director General of Health in Dohuk explained that there is "great pressure" on the health sector in Dohuk, because 40% of those who visit hospitals and health centers are displaced and refugees.

According to the statistics of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the total number of displaced people and refugees in the region exceeds 960 thousand people, and the budget needed to provide services for this number reaches two million dollars per day.

The Director of the Department of Migration and Displacement and Crisis Response in Dohuk says that they have discussed with the concerned authorities and humanitarian organizations about the health sector problems in the camps, and efforts are being made to address it.

With the exception of Ninewa, the Iraqi government closed the IDP camps all over Iraq except for the Kurdistan Region camps that were maintained under an understanding with the KRG, as large part of the displaced are reluctant to return to war-torn region due to the deteriorating security conditions, the lack of services and the destruction of their houses.

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