Shinjiro Murata, a MSF field coordinator from Japan, worked with MSF in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf, where his main focus was setting up a new project focused on improving perinatal and obstetric care in one of the largest referral hospitals in the region. Here, he talks about his experience:
“I arrived in Najaf more than a year ago, in October 2010, to start an MSF project in the Al Zahara District Hospital. Najaf is located 160 kilometers (99 miles) south of Baghdad and is one of the holiest cities for Shia Muslims. It was not an easy task, and surely a challenging experience to be working in such a different country. My previous experience with MSF was in Africa, so when I started working in Najaf I realized that I would need to see things from a different perspective and adapt to the reality of a country that used to have a very well organized health system but, due to decades of conflict and international sanctions, has seen a rampant deterioration in health care provision.
MSF decided to start a medical program to support the main Ministry of Health referral hospital, the Al Zahara District Hospital, for obstetrics, gynecology, and pediatrics in Najaf city. The hospital is one of the largest hospitals in the region, with a 340-bed capacity, and it deals with approximately 1,950 deliveries per month. These account for almost 50 percent of the deliveries carried out in the whole Najaf Governorate, which has a total population of 1.2 million people. It is most of the time overcrowded with patients and the quality of medical services provided is sometimes not adequate.
After more than one year in Najaf I have seen that medical needs in the country are still very high. Until peace is restored in Iraq, MSF needs to continue supporting these pregnant women and newborn children. MSF is one of the few international medical humanitarian organizations working inside Iraq thanks to its independent, neutral, and impartial nature.
Iraq 2011 © MSF
Two newborn babies in Al Zahara District Hospital, where MSF has been working since 2010