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Volume 449: debated on Wednesday 19 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps his Department is taking to provide emergency medical supplies for children in Iraq; and if he will make a statement. (86007)

The Iraqi health care system faces enormous challenges which long pre-date the 2003 conflict. In the early 1980s, Iraq enjoyed some of the best health care in the Middle East. However, by 2000, international health indicators for Iraq were comparable with some of the poorest countries in Africa. Under-five mortality had increased from 50 per 1,000 in 1990 to 133 in 2001. One in four children under five were chronically malnourished. Hospitals, clinics and water and sanitation plants suffered from chronic lack of maintenance.

DFID has given most of its assistance to the Iraqi health sector through financial contributions to international organisations that have particular expertise in health. These contributions include:

£5 million to the World Health Organisation (WHO), which has helped to fund the delivery of emergency medical supplies, supported clinics and hospitals in Baghdad and Basra, and supports the Iraqi Government's Health Sector Working Group. More information can be found at

£32 million to the International Red Cross for immediate humanitarian assistance

£70 million to the United Nations and World Bank multi-donor trust funds for Iraq. These trust funds finance reconstruction in a number of areas including health. The UN trust fund has approved 10 health and nutrition projects, in total valued at $96 million. The World Bank trust fund also has a $25 million health rehabilitation project which finances priority emergency services, including basic medical equipment and essential drugs. More information on both trust funds can be found at

However, many challenges still remain and DFID and the international community will continue to work with the Iraqi authorities to help them to rebuild the health sector.

Important progress has been made: health care spending across Iraq is up more than 30 times on pre-war levels; 5 million children have been vaccinated, and diseases such as polio, measles and malaria have declined; 240 hospitals and 1,200 primary health centres are functioning; and 20 hospitals are being rehabilitated and a paediatric hospital is being built in Basra.