Photo essay – After the Islamic State: Restoring Mosul’s Shattered Health Care System

By Crystal Wells, Communications Officer International Medical Corps

In January, Iraqi Security Forces reclaimed the eastern half of Mosul—Iraq’s second largest city—from the Islamic State, or ISIL. Today, communities on the east side of the Tigris River, which snakes through the centre of Mosul, are crawling back to life after two years of brutal ISIL rule. But the deep scars of ISIL’s long-held grip on the city and the conflict are everywhere.

For health clinics, ISIL control rendered many unable to function, as medicines supplies were sporadic at best, but often non-existent. Many were hit by mortars, bullets, and car bombs. Electricity and water supply ground to a halt. International Medical Corps, with funding from the EU’s humanitarian budget, is helping eight primary health care clinics across eastern Mosul get back to work caring for men, women, and children who often went without health care for years and have suffered unimaginable levels of violence, all while the bloody battle for western Mosul grinds on.

A girl walks amongst the remains of destroyed buildings just south of Mosul. As of the 21st of March, more than 330,000 people have been displaced from their homes since the Mosul Operation began on the 17th of October 2016. An estimated 72,000 have returned home—many of them to east Mosul, which is now under the control of the Iraqi Security Forces.

The Qariha primary health care clinic in north-eastern Mosul was hit by a car bomb earlier this year, which left it badly damaged throughout. Today, the clinic is seeing approximately 300 patients a day, according to staff working there. International Medical Corps is repairing the clinic, providing medicines and generator fuel, and other support. The team at the clinic say they are worried about communicable disease outbreaks, as so many in Mosul are going without safe drinking water.

Ahmed Wissan Thanoon (left), 6, and Mohmed Wissan Thanoon (centre), 11, and Zahra Wissan Thanoon (right), 9, at the primary health care clinic in Qahira, an area in north-eastern Mosul, that is supported by International Medical Corps. The children were just outside their home in west Mosul when they were hit by three mortars. Zahra sustained shrapnel cuts to her legs, while Ahmed and Mohmed suffered lacerations and bone fractures. They visited the clinic in Qahira to receive dressings for their wounds after escaping west Mosul.

Children sit in the waiting area of the primary health care clinic in Gogjali, a neighbourhood in eastern Mosul. Their mother, Muntaha Younis, brought them to the clinic because they are suffering from chest infections and sore throats. The family of 12 remained in Gogjali while ISIL held all of the Mosul and then through the clashes in late 2016. While Muntaha feels security has improved, she said the family still struggles to make ends meet. “This primary health clinic is really useful,” she said. “It’s very good for us. In the time of ISIL, there was no primary health care clinic, no medicines.”

International Medical Corps’ Dr Mostafa Ahmed Rasheed sees a patient at the primary health care clinic in Gogjali, a neighbourhood in eastern Mosul. The area has been under control of the Iraqi army since late 2016; however, residents complain that water and electricity supply are yet to be restored.

International Medical Corps’ Dr Saja Alsanjry checks a two-year-old girl suffering from an ear infection at the primary health care clinic in Gogjali, a neighbourhood in eastern Mosul. The clinic, which is open six days a week, sees roughly 100 patients a day. Respiratory tract infections, urinary tract infections, and anaemia, especially in children, are all common health issues seen at the clinic.

The primary health clinic in Arkan, a neighbourhood in eastern Mosul, sees approximately 100 patients a day, according to its staff. “We suffer from a shortage of everything, from staff to water and medicines,” one of the doctors said.

Dr Reem Mohamad sees a patient for cold symptoms at the primary health clinic in Arkan. The clinic opened in December 2016, after being shuttered under ISIL rule. Dr Reem said that when she first came to the clinic, there was no furniture, or medicines.

Dr Reem Mohamad sees two sisters, ages six and four, for common cold symptoms at the primary health clinic in Arkan. The most common health issue the clinic sees, according to doctors working there, are skin diseases, likely the result of the persistent lack of water in Mosul.

The battle for western Mosul continues to drive thousands from their homes, with 45,000 displaced just between the 13th and 19th of March alone—a 22 percent increase from the previous week. Those still trapped inside are living with little—if any—access to medical care.

Read The London Economic’s “Financing Terror: Islamic State and the Price of Empire” Click Here

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