Recent days have seen a significant rise in the number of patients with COVID-19 in Iraq, with over 1,000 infections and 60 confirmed deaths, according to the Iraq Ministry of Health (MOH). Since the virus has started to spread across the country, the capital, Baghdad, has reported the most cases and deaths.
MSF teams assisting hospitals in Baghdad
On 1 April 2020, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) began supporting Baghdad’s Ibn al-Khatib hospital, one of three designated by the MOH to treat patients with COVID-19 in the city.
MSF’s team assessed the hospital’s readiness to deal with the outbreak and started providing hospital staff with training on infection prevention and control (IPC) and triage management. These preparations will ensure that COVID-19 patients receive proper treatment, while still protecting other patients and staff from infection.
“The initial goal of our intervention is to help the hospital handle suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients, to make sure they are welcomed and treated as well as possible in such circumstances, and to also avoid having new patients with hospital-acquired infections,” explains Shaukat Muttaqi, MSF Head of Mission in Iraq. “To reach this objective, the MSF team will be working in collaboration with local hospital staff.”
Preparing to respond to COVID-19 in Ninewa and Erbil
MSF is also supporting local health authorities elsewhere in Iraq with their COVID-19 responses. In Mosul, in Ninewa governorate, we have prepared a building in the Al-Salam Health complex, to be dedicated to the isolation of people with suspected cases of the virus.
Located right next door to Al-Salam, Al-Shifaa hospital, which was rebuilt by MSF in 2019, has been identified by local health authorities as the main hospital for referral of COVID-19 patients in Ninewa governorate. We also plans to convert our own post-operative care facility, located in the Al-Salam Health complex, so that it can support Al-Shifaa hospital in the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
“The healthcare system in Mosul and across Ninewa governorate in general was heavily impacted by the war in 2017,” says Muttaqi. “MSF is willing to do our part to help prevent the pandemic from adding to the suffering and loss that people in the city have already lived through."
In Erbil governorate, MSF teams started collaborating with three of MOH hospitals assigned for COVID-19 treatment, with the aim to provide technical support on infection prevention and control measures, patient triage, and mental health support.
MSF teams continuing to work in other projects, but with additional measures
Elsewhere in Iraq, MSF projects continue to provide health services to vulnerable communities across the country. These services include surgical, neonatal, paediatric and maternity care, non-communicable disease treatment, emergency care and mental health support. We haves put additional preventive measures in place to limit the risk of infection for patients and staff in our regular projects.
“Around Iraq, MSF supports hundreds of extremely vulnerable people every day through our medical programmes,” says Muttaqi. “It is vital to facilitate the smooth movement of medical supplies and staff, and to ensure that the provision of essential, and sometimes lifesaving, medical care to patients in our ongoing projects continues.”
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been working in Iraq since 1991 and now has more than 1,500 staff working in projects across the country. MSF provides free, high-quality healthcare for all people, regardless of race, religion, gender or political affiliation.
MSF delivers primary and secondary healthcare, services for expectant and new mothers, treats for chronic diseases, performs surgery and rehabilitation for war-wounded, mental health support and health education activities. We currently work in the governorates of Baghdad, Ninewa, Diyala and Kirkuk. We have also supported local health facilities in the southern provinces of Basrah, Najaf and Dhi Qar in recent months with preparedness for mass casualty incidents.