Restoring Trust: Creating a Roadmap for Health Policy in Iraq after COVID

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Iraq has had the highest number of COVID-19 cases and the most deaths from the coronavirus in the Arab world. Meanwhile, the healthcare system has struggled to manage the situation, and the Minister of Health went so far as to warn of the system’s imminent “collapse” at the height of the pandemic. From the perspective of the population, trust in healthcare is at an all-time low and many Iraqis with COVID have avoided hospitals altogether. The deadly April 2021 fire at Ibn al-Khateeb hospital — a key center for the management of  COVID cases — only cemented the perception that the system is irreparably broken and mired in corruption. Against this backdrop of current failure is the societal awareness that Iraq once boasted the strongest public healthcare system in the Middle East region. The system began a precipitous decline during the 1990s under UN sanctions and was further dismantled due to the violence, political turmoil, and pervasive corruption that emerged in the years following the 2003 US-led invasion. While researchers and journalists have documented this history and have examined the causes of the war-induced deterioration of Iraq’s healthcare system, little serious effort has been made at the level of Iraqi policymakers or the international aid community to chart a new path forward. The aim of this project is to open up a policy-oriented conversation around the past, present, and most importantly, the future of Iraq’s public healthcare system.


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