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Iraq: Pregnant Women Suffer Obstetrician Shortage, Poor Healthcare

War has taken a toll on Iraq’s once-exemplary maternal health care system, endangering the health of pregnant Iraqi women and their fetuses, according to an article in Thursday’s Washington Post. Nightly curfews, constant fighting and unannounced road closures make it dangerous and difficult for women in labor, and their doctors, to get to the hospital after dark. Some ambulances and police charge women for rides to hospitals or refuse to drive them after dark, and ambulances are sometimes too concerned about violence to deliver needed supplies, like blood, to hospitals.

It is also common for there to be no obstetrician at the hospital when a pregnant woman arrives, as was the case for a woman profiled in the Post’s article. According to a December 2006 report by the Brookings Institution, 34,000 doctors were registered before the 2003 invasion of Iraq by US forces. Since the invasion, however, approximately 12,000 doctors have left Iraq and 2,250 others have either been kidnapped or murdered. One Iraqi surgeon interviewed by the Post believes that the kidnapping and execution of doctors is an organized attempt at keeping Iraq from being rebuilt.

Iraqi women have begun scheduling elective C-sections in the early part of the day rather than risk going into labor after dark. As it is difficult to get to the hospital even in an emergency, the Post said that many women also end up forgoing proper prenatal care, which doctors say has caused an increase in birth defects.
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Sources:

Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report 1/4/07; Brookings Institution Report 12/21/06; The Washington Post 1/4/07