Health in Iraq

Iraqi doctor treating a child

The state of health in Iraq has fluctuated during its turbulent recent history. During its last decade, the regime of Saddam Hussein cut public health funding by 90 percent, contributing to a substantial deterioration in health care.[1] During that period, maternal mortality increased nearly threefold, and the salaries of medical personnel decreased drastically.[1] Medical facilities, which in 1980 were among the best in the Middle East, deteriorated.[1] Conditions were especially serious in the south, where malnutrition and water-borne diseases became common in the 1990s.[1] In 2005 the incidence of typhoid, cholera, malaria, and tuberculosis was higher in Iraq than in comparable countries.[1] The conflict of 2003 destroyed an estimated 12 percent of hospitals and Iraq’s two main public health laboratories.[1]

In the late 1990s, Iraq’s infant mortality rates more than doubled.[1] Because treatment and diagnosis of cancer and diabetes decreased in the 1990s, complications and deaths resulting from those diseases increased drastically in the late 1990s and early 2000s.[1] The collapse of sanitation infrastructure in 2003 led to an increased incidence of cholera, dysentery, and typhoid fever.[1] Malnutrition and childhood diseases, which had increased significantly in the late 1990s, continued to spread.[1] In 2006 some 73 percent of cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) in Iraq originated with blood transfusions and 16 percent from sexual transmission.[1] The AIDS Research Centre in Baghdad, where most cases have been diagnosed, provides free treatment, and testing is mandatory for foreigners entering Iraq.[1] Between October 2005 and January 2006, some 26 new cases were identified, bringing the official total to 261 since 1986.[1]


Before Gulf War

Infant mortality rates fell from 80 per 1,000 live births in 1974, to 60 in 1982 and 40 in 1989, according to government statistics. A similar trend characterized under-five mortality rates which halved from 120 per 1,000 live births in 1974 to 60 in 1989.[2]

Post Gulf War

In the eight months following the 1991 war, mortality rates for children under five shot back up to 120 per 1,000 live births, the highest recorded increase for any country in the world in the 1990s. The war and the sanctions destroyed the capital-intensive model of free and sophisticated care.The war damaged hospitals, foreign nurses left the country; and the health budget was slashed. Spending per capita fell from a minimum of US$86 to US$17 in 1996.[2]

Health Statistics

Mortality Rates (Under-five years)

This is a general and global records about under-five mortality rates. The global under-five mortality rate stands at 51 deaths per 1000 live births in 2011, a drop of 41 percent from 87 per 1000 in 1990. However the world as a whole is still far from the goal of 29 deaths per 1000 live births by 2015.[3]

In the 1960s, Iraq was “one of the best countries in which to be a child” according to the UNICEF statistics. At the same time in 1981, Iraq had the 2nd lowest Infant Mortality Rate worldwide. In the late 1990s, Iraq’s under-five mortality rates have dropped by approximately 50% - from 44.8 deaths per 1000 live births in 2000 to 34.4 in 2012.[4]

Child Mortality in Iraq
Year Child Mortality (0 - 5year) per 1000 born
2000 44.8
2001 43.9
2002 43.0
2003 42.3
2004 41.4
2005 40.6
2006 39.8
2007 38.8
2008 38.0
2009 37.1
2010 36.2
2011 35.3
2012 34.4

Thus mortality rates are gradually decreasing since the late 1990s. On the other hand, if Iraq had progressed at the same average rate as the other countries, by 2011 Iraq would have achieved its Millennium Development Goal number four for infant mortality rate reduction. Although there is renewed progress across all sectors of child development, substantial work is still needed to achieve national targets and global goals.

Since 1990, the lives of an estimated 90 million children under age 5 have been saved, but much work remains. If current trends continue, the world will not meet the MDG target until 2028, and another 35 million children will die unnecessarily.[5]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Iraq country profile. Library of Congress Federal Research Division (August 2006). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. 1 2 health care system in Iraq, High-Tech Healthcare in Iraq, Minus the Healthcare by Pratap Chatterjee, Special to CorpWatch January 8th, 2007,
  3. "Under-five Mortality Rates". UNICEF.
  4. "Under-fine Mortaliy Rates".
  5. "Under-five Mortality Rates".
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