Saudi gives WHO $50m for humanitarian aid in Iraq

Over 350,000 Syrian refugees in northern Iraq also strained an already beleaguered health system

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Saudi Arabia has provided the World Health Organization (WHO) with a $50-million grant for humanitarian relief to Iraqis affected by the ongoing conflict in their country.

The WHO support would help expand access to health services with projects to be implemented in all areas hosting those displaced by the recent unrest as well as the conflict-affected provinces of Anbar, Nineveh, Salah El-Din, Diyala and the northern Kurdistan region.

Access to health services in conflict-affected areas has been greatly compromised, with many hospitals and clinics unable to cope with the influx of displaced people seeking health care.

In Anbar, only 40 of its 153 public health centers are functional, with the two main hospitals – Fallujah and Ramadi – operating at limited capacity.

In Mosul, the number of functioning public health centers has been decreasing daily since June 2014.

The capacity of health facilities in Sinjar, Tel Afar, Tikrit and Hamdiniyah has also been greatly affected, with Tel Afar hospital reportedly damaged by explosions rendering it only partially functional.

Dr. Syed Jaffar Hussain, the WHO’s representative to Iraq, conveyed that even before the current crisis Iraq’s health system and the health of its people had been facing major challenges and that the recent insecurity in many parts of the country was exacerbating the situation.

The presence of more than 250,000 Syrian refugees in northern Iraq has also strained an already beleaguered health system.

The threat of infectious disease outbreaks like cholera, diarrhea, measles and hepatitis E, has increased due to population displacements and strains on the health infrastructure.

The disease control project aims to decrease the number of acute watery diarrhea cases and increase childhood immunization coverage, particularly in Anbar, where the polio vaccination coverage rate will rise from 48 percent to over 94 percent.

The Saudi donation, the largest ever humanitarian contribution to WHO for a specific crisis, enables the organization to scale up its response to disease outbreaks, malnutrition, medicine shortages and overburdened hospitals and clinics.

Humanitarian health care providers will tackle medical complications resulting from malnutrition by providing targeted support to 350,000 people, including children under the age of five, pregnant and lactating women and patients suffering from severe malnutrition.

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