‘Chaotic picture’ as funding gap threatens WHO operations in Iraq

More than 3 million refugees and displaced Iraqis could be denied life-saving healthcare

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More than 3 million refugees and displaced Iraqis could be denied life-saving healthcare as the World Health Organization (WHO) scrambles to secure $60 million to fund their operations in the country to the end of the year.

Without the money, healthcare providers in Iraq funded by the WHO and its partners could be forced to stop services -- including primary healthcare, disease outbreak detection and immunization -- at the end of June, said Syed Jaffar Hussain, WHO's head of mission in Iraq.

"By the 30th of June, the funding will be completely exhausted," Hussain told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Iraq.

"If money is not available the health situation will become extremely precarious."

Fighting between Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants and government forces has displaced some 3 million people across Iraq and left more than 8.2 million in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Hussain said a lack of funds could force the closure of mobile clinics serving Iraqis on the move and health services in camps for displaced people and halt supplies of life saving medicines and equipment.

As hot, summer months approach, poor hygiene and unsanitary living conditions will increase the risk of diseases in the camps and among those on the move, said Hussain.

"We will be looking at a very, very chaotic picture in July and onwards," he said.

Hussain said donor fatigue due to crises in Syria and Yemen and the recent earthquake in Nepal was one of the main reasons why securing funds has become a challenge. Iraq is often perceived by donors as middle-income country with oil wealth.

"The money has become squeezed because of the oil revenues going down and spending on security and fighting the war, so the money is not there for the social sector," he said.

"They're looking towards the donors to come forward and help them in the situation that's beyond their control and is beyond their capacity to fund."