Searching For Hope Is Mission Impossible

August 1, 2010 2 comments

Hi it’s me again :)… I do know that it’s been over a century since I wrote a post on this blog but I promise that from now on I am gonna post here more regularly, Inshallah… So on Tuesday the 13th of July the results of our final year exams finally appeared and we all passed with flying colours-me and all of my close friends and good colleagues… That’s right guys, from now on my official title is gonna be Dr Lubna Q. Naji MD🙂
OK, enough with the gloating already! I am not gonna start my career as a doctor until late December-early January, so I am gonna enjoy a rather long break until then… Some of my good friends have chosen to travel either to Kurdistan Al Iraq or abroad with their families during the summer holiday inorder to escape the incredible summer heat, but I due to some special personal circumstances am destined to spend my break at home… Am I whining here or what ? I must remember not to whine that often🙂
Anyway, these days I keep thinking about what kind of Iraq I am gonna practice medicine in as a junior doctor within five months from now… I mean within five months from now what’s gonna change ? It’s been almost five months since the parliamentary elections and we still have no functioning new government or parliament…. I must admit that I do feel kind of betrayed by all of our politicians, I feel fool for putting my faith and trust in people who didn’t deserve it… I cannot believe that I once thought that those people could actually change things down here for the better, I was such a fool and naive but I am now disillusioned…. Now I do know for sure that the only thing those people do actually care about is how to reach power, they do not care about ordinary Iraqis whatsoever, in fact our best interests come at the bottom of their priority list, they do not mind foreign interference in our internal affairs as long as those foreign agendas help them out reach power even if that means compromising our national sovereignty… What a disappointment, what a huge disappointment!
When it comes to the status of basic public services such as electricity, water supplies, ect., ect., the situation is as gloomy as it could be… The government gives us electricity 3-4 hours a day and very rarely that could reach up to 6 hours a day, so we solely depend on private generators inorder to get electricity, we pay the generator guy (who’s also our neighbour) 150,000 Iraqi dinars a month so that he will give us electricity 24/7…. But the problem is that not all Iraqis can afford the quite high prices determined by the private generators’ owners, and the heat of Iraqi summer is truely intolerable (up to 50 degrees on some days, mostly up to 45 degrees), and so the level of frustration amongst ordinary Iraqis regarding the seemingly eternal electricity problem is actually very high, and the thing that bugs the most is that apparantly the state couldn’t care less about it, the Iraqi minister of electricity Karim Waheed resigned, so what ? Where’s the action ? What are the steps taken inorder to deal with the situation promptly and quickly aside from media statements ? Nothing, absolutely nothing!
And also the over-all security situation is still quite volatile (although things are actually pretty much better than they used to be before in 2006-2007, that’s fair to say), but violent attacks directed against innocent civilians and Iraqi security forces all over Iraq are still a regular occurance, Iraq is still a pretty dangerous enviroment, and the current political deadlock may make things even more worrying than they already are, because violence in order to achieve a political purpose is a very common Iraqi thing… And yet it’s fair to say that now I am kind of less afraid than I used to be before, wandering about in Baghdad is now quite less dangerous than before… I do not know, may be it’s because over the years we have become more used to it all, like developing some sort of a mental shield that enables us to pursue our daily lives in a normal or semi-normal way and avoid being paralysed by fear as much as possible… Humans adapt, that’s what they do… And our ways of adaptation differ, sometimes we may even try to pretend that nothing has actually happened, you know, like trying to ignore it all completely and blocking it out from our memory…. Will all of that have long term mental, psychological, and even health consequences ???? SURE, we’ll just have to wait and see….
Oh my God, thinking about all of this and then writing it down has made me feel quite blue… Sometimes hope for us and our Iraq just seems so far away… But one must always leave a space, even if very tiny, for hope and optimism, otherwise life would be absolutely impossible to live… Hey, tomorrow is my only sister’s Layla’s wedding, now that’s a very good reason to be hopeful and optimistic-even if for one day period….
With my love… Yours sincerely, Lubna N in Baghdad…

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Iraqi Doctors-Healers In A War Zone

January 28, 2010 1 comment

Hello it’s me again ! :)… This blog post is written by my most senior neurosurgeon at our college Dr Ali Al Shalchi :
The health care services in Iraq are mainly divided to goveremental and non goveremental (public and private)…. There is no clear cut line between those two categories… About 80% of the doctors and parastaff work in both public and private sectors for financial support , or the lack of feeling of job security as the future of your career in any of the two sectors is never guaranteed, so you wouldn’t want to put all of your egges in one basket , and the same is true for Iraqi patients who use public and private health care services both at the same time- public because it is free of charge and private because it is advanced and better developed… the remaining 20% working exclusively for the public sector are having a big under carpet battle against the 80%, of course they lack the number of fighters but they have the laws in their hands which they can almost always manipulate. The presence of this continous battle is not always bad as the Iraqi patient can benefit from it considering the fact that private health care services are now much more developed and advanced than they used to be before… Unfortunately this is not the case with public health care services as there is the lack of modern and advanced equipments, having machines that are out of date, lack of modern and effective medications, and of course the after 2003 problems-politicising public health care, sectarian attitude and tensions, and also the security threats that health care professionals have to face (threats, kidnappings, assassinations, ect., ect.,),although at the moment those security threats are not as serious as they used to be before, not to mention of course the problem of brain drain and the immigration of qualified health care professional to outside Iraq… The past 6 years have witnessed an enomerous increase in the number of training programmes for Iraqi doctors to the outside of Iraq including Europe, India, ect., ect., with an excellent feedback but of course still with much placebo effect by out of reality programmes or self ambition programmes but the net result was positive by all means.
Since last yeat, the trend in the Iraqi ministry of health was to initiate primary, secondary, and tertiary health care centres which is an excellent step to help ease the pressure on our hospitals in one hand and make use of the primary health care services which were almost doing nothing but vaccination and delivering drugs for chronic diseases… This is a real chalange, and if it can succeed then it will be a very important asset to public health care sector in Iraq if it can succeed.. The other duty of the health care foundations in co-operation with the ministry of higher education is training of medical students, I was able to visit UK at 2007 and I can say with confidence that our training programmes for under-graduate students are really excellent and up to date…. The last thing that I would like to say here is that all we need is more organization as our doctors have been doing an absolutely fantastic job in a country that has suffered a great deal over years, both before and after 2003…

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The NOAH Iraq Project-Our Children Do Deserve Better

January 15, 2010 2 comments

Hi it’s me again ! :)… This post is written by Dr Mohammed Twaij, an Iraqi paediatrician living in London and one of the guardians of the NOAH Iraq project down there in the UK :
Dear Friends,

Spirit of the story of Noah

The story of Noah and the flood is stated in The Torah, The Bible, and The Qur’an.
The story of Noah reminds us of our humanity and our limitations and the need to lend hand to each other especially during the time of calamity and tragedy. The spirit of this story is to remind us that we all have a responsibility to treat each other respectfully and to abide by golden standard of laws that are basic to humanity living peacefully and righteously in a civilized society. It teaches us to respect God’s Laws and the laws of morality and to abide by social, legal and spiritual paths which stem from God’s laws. It is a good reminder to all of us of a new beginning for human on earth and how “Noah” suffered and persevered to reach safety.

Iraqi children are suffering and they need our help. This is reminded me when I visited the Paediatric Oncology Department in the Medical City in Baghdad twice within a matter of seven months in 2009 during which time two of lovely young children died either because of late diagnosis and/or lack of appropriate and adequate medications. It is really sad when you feel you can do some thing to stop children from dying in front of your eyes, but at the same time you will be led down due to lack of resources, equipment, trained personals, short of medications, and needless to say poor educational programme.

The story of “NOAH” Noah Oncology And Haematology Hospital for Children

A group of dedicated and determined professionals in UK, studied this tragic reality of our children in Iraq and decided to embark on a humanitarian project to elevate the plight of those children in need. The project was born from the deep and unnecessary suffering of those children with cancer.

NOAH’s vision is to establish a charitable medical centre of excellence based in Iraq, offering equal opportunities to all children free modern- evidence-based treatments; thus providing health care services according to the highest international standards. We reckon the cost of such project is estimated at £60 Million in order to have a modern and fully operational Hospital.

Childhood cancer in the developed world enjoyed consistent improvement over the years and the children are surviving longer. The survival rate is estimated around 80% although it varies with the specific diagnosis. However, the survival rate in Iraq is a sad story and it is 35-40%.

The best available data from Iraq suggest that there are about 8000 newly diagnosed cancer case, and we estimated that about 2000 of them are children per year. This means that approximately 700-800 of such children would have been cured but the majority of them (1200-1300) with cancer would die unnecessarily for the reasons above.

We are aiming to establish Noah project on the same principles of the successful experience of the 57357 hospital for the treatment of children’s cancer in Cairo, in Egypt, which is the second largest hospital of its type in the world,

We direct our appeal to the good and generous People of Iraq, to contribute to the effective and meaningful achievement of this humanitarian project, urgently needed so we can put a stop to the needless death of Our Children simply because they are unable to access appropriate treatment.

We would emphasise that we cannot achieve this great medical feat which will be a shining
beacon throughout the region and the world, without the support and efforts of the generous People of Iraq.

You can get more informations about the NOAH Iraq project by visiting the website and also you can ask for more informations by leaving a comment on this blog post and Inshallah I will get back to you… With my love… Yours forever, Lubna in Baghdad…

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Our Election-Our Choice

January 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Hi it’s me again ! :)…. Today is Friday, a part of the weekend holiday in my Iraq (which lasts for two days-Friday and Saturday), and I am stuck at home trying to study, the only way I get to leave my house is when I go to my college, that’s not the typical picture down here but it is because of so many sad personal reasons that I do not want to bore all of you with, so here I am sitting infront of my laptop with my book in my lap and drowning in my own thoughts… On the 7th of March 2010 there’ll be parliamentary elections in my Iraq (hopefully)… Sometimes I like to close my eyes and I just try to fantasize about my Iraq (not the current one but the one I want it to be like), but the vision is always blurred and not clear… I always keep telling myself that may be the picture will get clearer and less blurred after the 2010 parliamentary elections, after all those elections will be a very important landmark that will decide our future for four years to come… Now in these elections there’re two main political agendas that will furiously fight with each other inorder to get the approval of ordinary Iraqis, the 1st one has this national approach that seeks to unify all Iraqis together and deals with our Iraq as one strong and sovereign unit, while the 2nd one has this sectarian approach that seeks to make our loyalties to our ethnic and religious background more important and vital to us than our loyalty to our beloved Iraq… The people standing behind the 2nd agenda flourish and blossom via creating fear and inciting hatred and sectarian tensions amongst ordinary Iraqis, they want to make us lose hope in the idea of ”unified Iraq” and turn to our sects and tribes for protection from this factitious danger they themselves have taken a significant role in creating, they even exploit religious emotions and rituals inorder to make political gains ahead of the elections… Of course there’re also other political agenda and other people standing behind those agendas, there’re the former Baathists who despairedly seek to return to power falsely disguised as nationalists, and also there’re those people who are promoting and encouraging foreign interferences in our Iraq, ect., ect.,. The good news is that we’re the ones who get to decide who gets to power, and that’s why raising awareness and talking about the issues that matter to us the most are xtremely important… We should care and we should work on making this election succeed because if we screw it up then we will all lose…. Much love and blessings to all of you from my Baghdad, the city of pain, hope, and magic tales… Yours forever, Lubna….

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Hello From Baghdad

January 7, 2010 1 comment

Hello, it’s me Lubna in Baghdad, Iraq and this is my very 1st post on this blog, so please go easy on me and give me a chance OK ? :)…. These days I am taking my neurology clinical rotation at Baghdad Teaching hospital (Which will end by Sunday Inshallah)… One crucial problem that most ordinary Baghdadis seem to suffer from on daily bases is the intolerable traffic jam caused by the endless number of military checkpoints imposed on Baghdadi streets, roads, and bridges by the Iraqi security forces, making it almost impossible for most Baghdadis to get in time to the places they want to get to… As for me, my clinical sessions at the hospital usually start by 8:30 AM, but I have to leave my house by 6:50 AM otherwise I will never make it to our hospital in time… Sometimes I joke with my friends about that telling them that my Baghdad is actually turning into the West Bank because of the endless number of military checkpoints that you have to go through before reaching your final destination…. These military checkpoints are an integral part of this security strategy employed by the Iraqi security authorities inorder to keep law and order in our Baghdad… After each major security breach (like bloody Wednesday, Sunday, and Tuesday) the number of military checkpoints imposed on the ground by the Iraqi security authorities significantly increases, yes, we tackle the disaster after it actually happens, but to avoid the occurance of the tragedy ? No, that doesn’t seem like a part of our security strategy… The real question here is how can we define ”security improvement” by Iraqi standards ? If you block most of Baghdad’s main streets, roads, and bridges, fill the city with blast walls, and impose an endless number of military checkpoints on the ground and still you get major security breeches that hit intensely guarded government targets and cause large numbers of civilian casualties every now and then then does that count as a security improvement ? By our Iraqi standards, may be…. Back to me at our hospital, I hear patients and their families complain all the time about how difficult it is to reach the hospital in time especially when the clinical condition of the patient is emergent and requiring an immediate medical intervention, but the real trick is when the patient collapses after it gets dark, then getting him/her to the hospital safely in time is the real challenge…. As for me, I have learnt with time to sleep in the car once we get stuck at a traffic jam, it is a useful strategy, very efficient indeed… Much love and blessings to all of you from my Baghdad, the city of pain, hope, and magic tales… Yours forever, Lubna…