Iraq's Healthcare System In Chaos Despite Increased Funding

03/28/2008 02:46 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Sitting on a worn carpet in the living room of her small house in central Baghdad, Samah Ibraheem sifts through a stack of medical files and tries to explain how difficult it is living with the constant fear of slowly bleeding to death.

Ibraheem, 20, and her 16-year-old brother Omar both suffer from a potentially lethal form of hemophilia in a country where the medical health-care system is teetering on the brink of collapse.

"My disease affects everything I do," Ibraheem said to ABC News. "I love cooking but I have to be very careful not to cut myself with a knife or burn myself on the stove. It's a very difficult life."

Omar has to be careful too, sitting quietly indoors ruminating on his condition while other boys play outside in the sunshine: "I can't play soccer because my joints hurt when I run. Sometimes the other kids tease me by punching me lightly, but what is just a normal hit to anyone else will cause internal bleeding to me."

What Ibraheem and Omar are desperate for is a steady supply of a lifesaving drug that induces blood clotting, but they find it impossible to get sufficient doses of the drug in Iraq where scores of doctors have been slain, medical supplies are in critically short supply and requests for help from hospitals get mired in red tape.

"There is a big, big breakdown in Iraq's medical health-care system," said Jamal Taha, a surgeon in al-Yarmouk Hospital, one of Baghdad's busiest emergency rooms. "It's worse than ever before, even worse than during the days of sanctions in the 1990s after the first Gulf War."

The shortages are not just confined to drugs. According to Taha, there is also a dire need for basic medical supplies like blood, anaesthesia and even bandages and sutures for stitching up wounds.

Read more on ABC News

Suggest a correction