Iraq is on the path to regaining sovereignty on June 30th. On March 28th, the U.S.-led coalition turned over authority of Iraq’s health ministry to Khudair Fadhil Abbas, a surgeon who was in exile from 1979 until 2003. He returned when Saddam Hussein was removed from power.
Dr. Abbas says that the turnover “is indeed a day of victory over the values of underdevelopment and dictatorship.” Since the liberation of Iraq, the U.S., Egypt, Italy, Japan, Korea, Turkey, Spain, and Saudi Arabia have provided Iraq with health care assistance. This includes training for doctors and nurses, construction of hospitals, and the donation of ambulances.
The Iraqi health ministry runs more than twelve-hundred health centers and two-hundred forty hospitals. There are more than twenty-thousand physicians and over thirty-thousand nurses and nursing assistants affiliated with the ministry. Throughout Iraq, doctors’ salaries have increased from twenty dollars a month under the former regime to between one-hundred-twenty dollars and one-hundred-eighty dollars a month. The ministry of health has delivered thirty-thousand tons of pharmaceuticals and health care supplies to facilities across Iraq, and procured and distributed thirty-million doses of children’s vaccinations.
Iraq’s 2004 budget for health care is nine-hundred-fifty-million dollars. That is in sharp contrast to the sixteen-million dollars in 2002 under Saddam Hussein’s regime.
President George W. Bush says Iraq has taken “a great step forward”:
“As Iraqis join the free peoples of the world, we mark a turning point for the Middle East and a crucial advance for human liberty.”
The ministry of health is the first of Iraq’s twenty-five ministries to be turned over to Iraqis by the Coalition Provisional Authority. By June 30th, the process of restoring Iraqi’s sovereignty will be complete.