Iraq once had one of the most modern medical systems in the Middle East. Its downfall began as the result of Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait with the U.N. Security Council embargo. The embargo cut off oil revenues which had funded the health system causing health professionals to flee the profession because of low wages, a shortage of medicines and basic equipment, as well as deterioration of health education programs. The U.S.-led coalition in 2003 found ruined infrastructure and dire health indicators.
Today, DoD is working with other U.S. government partners, NGOs and international partners to support the needs of the Iraqi Ministry of Health. Projects include partnering with the Ministry of Health to begin a school of public health, rebuilding ruined clinics and health care facilities and supporting clinical training programs.
The Status of Forces agreement between Iraq and the United States provides for the withdrawal of the U.S. military by the end of 2011. Accompanying the agreement was a Strategic Framework Agreement outlining specific areas of cooperation. Section VI calls upon the U.S. and Iraq to:
Support and strengthen Iraq's efforts to build its health infrastructure and to strengthen health systems and networks.
Support Iraq's efforts to train health and medical cadres and staff.
Maintain dialogue on health policy issues to support Iraq's long-term development. Topics may include controlling the spread of infectious diseases, preventative and mental health, tertiary care, and increasing the efficiency of Iraq's medicine procurements system.
Encourage Iraqi and international investment in the health field, and facilitate specialized professional exchanges in order to promote the transfer of expertise and to help foster relationships between medical and health institutions building on existing programs with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including its Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Encourage Iraqi efforts to strengthen mechanisms for protecting, preserving, improving, and developing the Iraqi environment and encouraging regional and international environmental cooperation.
A complete text of the agreement can be found at strategic_framework_agreement.pdf
FHP&R’s International Health Division has hosted DoD and interagency health meetings on Iraq, and emphasizes working from within the existing medical infrastructure in conflict and post-combat settings so that health care reconstruction projects are planned together with local health leaders and are compatible with their capabilities and goals so that they are sustainable over the long term. [NOTE: Although U.S. forces left Iraq last year per the Status of Forces Agreement, a legacy of cooperation persists between the MHS and Iraqi's military medical department. Please see story at http://intlhealth.fhpr.osd.mil/newsandreleases/news/news_latest_news/12-03-19/MHS_Iraq_Military_Health_Cooperation_Leave_Lasting_Legacy.aspx?id=?id