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Health Care Improves in Postwar Iraq

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Although our ABCNEWS, BBC and Time news teams heard differing stories from various sources about the state of health care in Iraq, our own assessment is that the health-care situation has improved dramatically in all parts of the country.

This is due in large part to efforts by nongovernmental organizations and the United Nations to restock hospitals and provide doctors with reasonable salaries and access to newer medical technologies.

Nasiriyah General Hospital, which we visited last fall, is "functioning better" and is "not nearly as overloaded as it was," according to ABCNEWS' Bob Woodruff, who visited the hospital. And the Al Zharawi Hospital in Mosul has a new emergency room, renovated by a Japanese NGO.

There continue to be difficulties with supplies ù morphine shortages and virtually no IV fluid at Basra General Hospital, and a frequent need to resort to "battlefield medicine" at the Mosul hospital, its doctors told our visiting team.

The pre-1990 Iraqi health-care infrastructure was first-rate. A decade of neglect ù and international sanctions ù left the system in shambles.

By the time the war started, few, if any, essential medical services were available. The invasion taxed the system even further as casualties skyrocketed.

Today, the United Nations, the coalition authorities and various NGOs report across-the-board improvements in emergency medicine. The nation is not yet near the pre-1990 levels of care, but certainly beyond the levels seen prior to the war.

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