Published on Oct 23, 2013
Iraq showed great promise in the 1960s and 1970s but over 30 years of wars and sanctions since then have severely deteriorated many of the country's essential services, including in the health sector. The city of Fallujah, in Al-Anbar Governorate, 60km northwest of Baghdad, is home to over 350,000 people (2010 census), with many more in surrounding towns and villages. The city's health facilities and services have been further damaged by heavy fighting since the 2003 invasion.
Child mortality and maternal health became especially problematic issues in Fallujah due to a lack of adequate facilities for gynaecological, obstetrics, and pediatric care. In addition, by 2005 the area experienced a major increase in leukemia and other cancers, with inadequate facilities or expertise to address these cases.
The lack of facilities caused many people in need to travel to Baghdad for specialized medical care. This was especially dangerous given the security conditions in Al-Anbar and in Iraq since 2003.
The Government of Japan has taken a leading role in supporting the Iraqi health sector. It supported the construction and rehabilitation of several hospitals in Iraq in the 1980s and 1990s. Following the 2003 invasion, the Government of Japan also provided major donations for the rehabilitation of many hospitals in different parts of Iraq.
With the Iraq Ministry of Health constructing a new Fallujah General Hospital, the Government of Japan agreed with the Government of Iraq, and the United Nations Development Programme for Iraq (UNDP Iraq) in 2008 to rehabilitate the old Fallujah General Hospital into a world-class Maternity and Children's Hospital in line with international hospital standards.
Part of the inspiration for this project was Mohammed Haitham, a boy who was partially blinded during the violence in Fallujah in 2004.
No facility in Fallujah could treat Mohammed's injury, but he was met by a group from Japan including journalist Shinsuke Hashida, who promised to take him to Japan for treatment after finishing their assignment. Tragically, Mr. Hashida was killed before he could return to Fallujah, but his family brought Mohammed to Japan for successful treatment, and his wife established the Hashida Memorial Fund, which was one of the catalysts of this project.
UNDP Iraq worked closely with the Iraqi Ministry of Health in the design, construction and implementation of this project.
The old hospital was architecturally renovated and many deteriorating buildings were repaired. Modern facilities were built and state-of-the-art infrastructure was supplied, including a modern sewage treatment plant, HVAC system, power substations, and a modern kitchen. High-tech medical equipment was installed, including a CT scanner, X-ray machine, and premature birth incubators. The Ministry of Health also provided medical equipment and construction works, including roads and parking facilities and doctors' accommodations. Hospital medical, engineering, and administrative staff were trained in the use and maintenance of the new facilities and equipment.
Finally, a community awareness campaign was also conducted, which included landscaping and beautification works, the provision of 90 date palm trees by community members, the provision and equipping of a day care centre, a childrens' playroom, and a small women-run mini-shop.
As of its opening in March 2013, the hospital has 150 beds and employs 358 staff, including 29 doctors. It is able to serve numerous patients daily through both inpatient and outpatient diagnostic and treatment services.