Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

We Can Help Build a Modern Health Service in Iraqi Kurdistan; Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

We Can Help Build a Modern Health Service in Iraqi Kurdistan; Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: Dave Anderson

AGROUP of medical professionals is regularly jetting from Newcastle to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq as part of a wave of interest in this staunchly pro-British place with a potentially pivotal role in the Middle East.

The local group is spearheaded by Kurdish-born Professor Deiary Kader who has lived here for 19 years. Like so many others he was forced into exile to escape the brutality of the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. He now wants to give something back to his homeland.

I have myself visited the Kurdistan Region twice in the past six years and am the secretary of the all-party parliamentary group (APPG). The APPG provides a bridge of friendship to a region which is recovering from dirt-poor conditions and genocide.

The most notorious example of genocide was the attack in 1988 on the town of Halabja where 5,000 men, women and children were killed by chemical weapons such as mustard gas.

Iraqi Kurdistan's fragile existence was saved by the British decision to Since Saddam's Kurds have establish a no-fly zone in 1991. Saddam was intent on wiping the Kurds off the face of the earth and may have succeeded without British intervention. build a safe, and increasingly prosperous Since Saddam's fall in 2003, the Kurds have been able to build a safe, stable, democratic and increasingly prosperous society. They have plentiful supplies of oil, gas, minerals, agriculture and their living standards and services are improving every day.

But their health service is poor. Deiary says that his sister prays every day that she doesn't fall ill. The APPG recently visited the main teaching hospital in the capital, Erbil. Parts of it were shoddy and unhygienic, but refurbished floors were much cleaner if somewhat basic.

The main problem is that they were almost completely cut off from the rest of the world and are now trying to catch up on modern methods, medicines and treatments.

They are keen on using external experience and expertise not least from the UK and have, for instance, connections with Sheffield Hallam University. But Deiary and his colleagues cannot wait for all that to filter through and are helping fill the gaps now. …

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