Since the start of Mosul Offensive in Iraq on 17 October 2016, over 10,340 injured civilians and Iraqi security forces have been receiving medical treatment in the Kurdistan region’s hospitals. In March 2017, the Iraqi Government decided to reduce the amount of medical supplies allocated to the Kurdistan region. The Kurdistan Regional Government denounced the move, considering it to be political. We believe that the Iraqi Government’s decision comes as a result of political tension between Bagdad and Erbil, and particularly the willingness of the Kurdistan Government  to hold a referendum on the independence of its region.

More precisely, in March 2017, the Iraqi Minister of Health asked the Prime Minister to cut medical supplies to the Kurdistan region, claiming the reduction was necessary due to a sharp decrease in the ministry’s budget. This decision would be likely harmful to the Kurdish health system, which is already struggling to fulfill its mission in the region. If Baghdad imposes further medical sanctions on the region, Kurdistan would face “immediate and serious difficulties” in securing medical supplies for its six million people and an estimated 1.8 million refugees and Internally Displaced Persons.

The Iraqi Government was previously sending 45% of the total medicine share to the Kurdistan region, already reducing the supply by almost the half. Currently, the Government is further reducing these supplies and only sending 24% of the total amount of medical supplies allocated to the region. According to the Kurdish Government, the health care situation is reaching a breaking point in the region. In response, Rekawt Hama Rashid, the Kurdish Minister of Health, is calling on the international community to support the Kurdistan region in its healthcare crisis, and to deliver supplies directly to the region without going through the Federal Government.

The decision of the Iraqi Government to reduce the amount of medical supplies sent to the Kurdistan region violates its obligations under international human rights law set out by the Article 12 (1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This Article provides that States shall “recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.” States have concrete obligations to provide health services, goods and facilities to all without any discrimination. Further, the reduction of medical supplies to the Kurdistan region obstructs civilians’ access to health care and violates the non-interference principle of medical impartiality. The Government of Iraq must instead support the Kurdistan region in providing health care to its population.

Defenders for Medical Impartiality (DMI) calls on the Government of Iraq to refrain from denying or limiting access to health care in Kurdistan region, and to immediately and unconditionally deliver the full amount of medical supplies needed in the region.