Healthcare in Iraq was once among the most developed systems in the region with a large number of medical schools, a variety of advanced resources and largely accessible care. That said, the impact of the war and ongoing conflict in Iraq has had devastating effects on the country’s healthcare system. Iraq’s primary healthcare delivery, disease control system, and health research infrastructure have been shattered by the conflict.
Attempts to resurrect Iraq’s healthcare system remain hindered by the fragile national security and lack of basic utilities such as water and electricity.
Public healthcare in Iraq
The public healthcare system in Iraq struggles to meet the needs of its citizens. In most urban centres, medical facilities have been rebuilt, and these are much more likely to be adequately staffed with doctors and nurses than those in rural areas.
Treatment through the public healthcare system is free of charge and Iraqi-produced medical supplies are also offered to residents at a subsidised cost. Sadly, the system faces a host of challenges including unreliable electricity, outdated equipment and lack of qualified staff. Hospitals are also often the target of insurgent attacks.
Other governments and international-aid organisations are working closely with the Iraqi government to restore basic services. Depending on where patients live and the severity of their condition, those requiring complex procedures might be taken to facilities managed by international organisations.
Private healthcare in Iraq
There is no formal private healthcare insurance system in Iraq. In some instances, wealthier Iraqis may pay out of pocket to receive speedier treatment at a public facility, or opt to go to a neighbouring country for treatment. Private clinics do exist, but they tend to be small and primarily provide for childbirths or surgeries and not general care.
Health insurance for expats in Iraq
Expats moving to Iraq tend to do so on short-term contracts. They therefore rarely need to concern themselves with long-term medical care. In serious circumstances, expats may be able to get treatment at a facility managed by an international organisation or a local hospital. That said, in most cases, they will be evacuated by air ambulance to a nearby country where they can receive better care.
Hospitals in Iraq expect payment before treatment and this can be costly. Expats moving to Iraq therefore must have a fully comprehensive health insurance plan that covers them for treatment overseas and repatriation. This is generally provided by employers as part of an expat’s employment contract.
Alternatively, there are a number of health insurance companies tailored specifically towards cover for expats that can be found online. If unsure of which company or policy to choose, expat's employers will be able to point them in the right direction.
Pharmacies in Iraq
Expats on chronic medication should ensure they visit their doctor prior to relocating to Iraq in order to get an advance prescription for the duration of their assignment in Iraq.
If travelling with prescription medicine, expats must ensure that all medicine is in its original container. They must also carry a signed and dated letter from their doctor detailing the medicine's brand and chemical names, its purpose, as well as confirmation that the medicine is for personal use.
As the Iraqi health system is developing, many drugs are in short supply. This means expats may only have access to the most basic medicines in Iraq.
Health hazards in Iraq
There are significant health hazards in Iraq and expats should take adequate precautions to protect themselves. The sanitation systems are not well developed and there is a high risk of contaminated water and food sources.
Routine vaccinations should be kept up to date, and additional vaccinations for typhoid and hepatitis A and B are recommended.