On 9 July 2017, Iraqi forces officially ended the conflict in Mosul by retaking the city from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (also known as Daesh). Nevertheless, Mosul’s infrastructure and healthcare system remain in shambles long after the violence abated, with reconstruction efforts undergoing a slow pace as large swathes of Iraq attempt to rebuild.
Iraq’s healthcare system before the current conflict with Daesh was well renowned. Top doctors flocked to Mosul and its strong medical university. Today, this university and many hospitals are severely destroyed. Furthermore, Daesh has forcibly transferred the city’s remaining physicians to Daesh-held territory in Deir Ez-Zour, Syria. Without facilities or doctors to provide treatment, Mosul’s sick and injured have very limited options for attaining care.
During the conflict in Mosul, nine of the city’s 13 hospitals were extensively damaged. The 13 hospitals had a combined count of around 3,500 hospital beds before the conflict. Now, with only four functioning hospitals remaining, the combined bed count is less than 1,000. Hospital bed capacity is used as a key indicator for health service delivery. Thus, Mosul’s healthcare capacity has been reduced by 70 percent during the time of the conflict in the city. The Sphere Standards – the internationally recognized minimum standards in a humanitarian response – state there should be more than ten hospital beds per 10,000 people. By Mosul’s current population, 1.8 million people, there should be a minimum 1,800 hospital beds in the city. The current number is well below the minimum standards, a problem that is exacerbated by the lack of safe, clean, and working equipment.
The Mosul population is quickly increasing as citizens return to their homes, with almost 46,000 people returning in May 2018 alone. However, the public and private health systems is not recovering apace, and there is a huge gap between the available services and the needs of the growing population. Doctor Mohammed S. Ali, the manager at Muharabeen Hospital, one of the only hospitals left standing in Mosul, lamented: “On average, we are receiving 850 outpatients every day, 50 emergency cases, and between 20 and 30 new trauma injuries, mostly from mortars. We urgently need support and will accept help from anyone.” For those suffering from non-traumatic health issues – including various forms of cancer, which are prevalent in Iraq – access to desperately needed treatment is diminished or completely absent.
The deterioration of Mosul’s healthcare system ultimately leaves communities impacted by violence without the support or treatment needed to recover. In the year since Mosul was rid of Daesh’s influence, the situation remains dire. Even with the dedicated help of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Mosul urgently needs to rebuild public health infrastructure, provide patients with access to affordable medication, and ensure medial facilities are supplied with the necessary equipment. Defenders for Medical Impartiality calls upon the international community to support rebuilding efforts to aid Mosul’s sick and injured population.