On April 27, 2017, IRIS hosted a roundtable entitled “War, Health, and Refugees in Iraq,” in partnership with the Seed Foundation and Johns Hopkins University’s Department of Anthropology. IRIS Research Fellow James ‘Mac’ Skelton, who is currently completing a PhD in Anthropology at Johns Hopkins University, chaired the discussion.

The meeting brought together directors of public hospitals, humanitarian officials, and government actors to discuss the immediate and long-term realities of healthcare for the displaced and refugee populations. The importance of including both humanitarian organizations and public hospitals in the meeting arises from the fact that the vast majority of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) reside outside of refugee camps administered by NGOs and thus rely on local hospitals for healthcare needs.

The discussion was structured in two parts. First, participants discussed physical access to healthcare facilities, focusing specifically on the restrictions placed on IDPs to move across provincial borders for treatment purposes. They highlighted the variability of checkpoint policies from one province to another, and the difficulty IDP patients lacking visible wounds face in proving the validity of their conditions to security officers. Stakeholders also discussed delays in healthcare teams reaching combat or newly liberated areas, causing minor health conditions to become critical.

In the second part of the discussion, participants focused on the status of IDPs and refugees in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and federal government of Iraq health budgets. NGO representatives underscored the important funding gaps for medical human resources and infrastructure as the underlying issue to most of Iraq’s short-term and long-term healthcare problems. Public hospital representatives stressed the urgent need to direct funds towards expanding capacity given the high numbers of IDP patients.

A full report, including a detailed account of the discussion and recommendations, will be published by IRIS shortly. 

Skelton’s research, funded through fellowships from the Social Science Research Council as well as the American Research Institute in Iraq, focuses on Iraqis' experiences of cancer care and therapeutic travel post-2003. For more information, click here.