September 15, 2008

Iraqi Babil Official Demands Dismissing Health Director Over Cholera Outbreak

Text of report by Iraqi privately-owned newspaper Al-Zaman on 11 September

[Report by an unnamed Al-Zaman correspondent in Al-Nasiriyah, Falah al-Ma'muri in Babil, and Anwar Jum'ah in Baghdad: "Babil Council Demands Dismissing Health Director For Hiding Facts of Spread of Cholera"]

Hasan al-Tufan, member of the Babil Governorate Council and head of the Services Committee, has said that "the number of infections with cholera has exceeded 50 at the Al-Hashimiyah and Hamzah hospitals." He added that the number of deaths has exceeded 15 cases. He accused the Babil Health Department of hiding the facts about the disease for political reasons or for fear of its higher authorities, such as the Health Ministry.

He noted that he has "presented a proposal to the governorate council," in which he asks for "dismissing Dr Mahmud Abd-al-Rida, director of the Babil Health Department, for hiding the truth of what is happening, in terms of the spread of the disease." At the same time, he asked the central government to "perform its duties towards the governorate in such an emergency." He pointed out that the government has not allocated a part of its emergency budget for the governorate.

Al-Tufan appealed to the government to disburse funds quickly to avert the disaster.

In a related development, Dr Hadi Badr al-Riyahi, director of the Dhi Qar Health Department, said that the governorate [of Dhi Qar] Is free of infections with cholera. Following a meeting he held yesterday with the medical and assistant staff at the hospitals of the governorate, he noted that "the department has taken the necessary precautions to counter the disease, although the governorate is free of it. The Pharmacy Section has been asked to provide sufficient medicines and supplies, and the directors of hospitals have been instructed to prepare special halls to handle emergency cases."

Meanwhile, Health Minister Salih Mahdi al-Hasnawi has discussed the latest developments in the cholera disease with the representatives of the service ministries that support the operations room of the disease. A statement by the Health Ministry, a copy of which was received by Al-Zaman yesterday, said that the participants in the meeting discussed the approved plans and mechanisms for providing pure water. They also stressed the need for health awareness, continuous enlightenment [of citizens], and distribution of chlorine tablets and water tanks to the areas that suffer from water contamination. It noted that the meeting was attended by "Dr Na'imah al-Qasir, representative of the World Health Organization in Iraq, a number of officials at the ministry, and the representatives of the health departments in Baghdad and the governorates."

In a separate development, Dr Khamis Husayn al-Sa'd, administrative under secretary at the Health Ministry, has visited the Ba'qubah Educational Hospital and inspected all halls, emergency and recovery rooms, and the wounded persons staying at the hospital. The statement said that the under secretary praised the good care and hotel services that are provided to the patients staying at the hospital.

It added that the under secretary has held a meeting for the heads of sections and branches at the Diyala Health Department and listened to their demands for the purpose of providing all modern medical instruments and equipment. He has also visited the health centres there and the Al-Batul Educational Hospital for Children.

Originally published by Al-Zaman, Baghdad, in Arabic 11 Sep 08.

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