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Under Siege

Officially, the war in Iraq is over, but for doctors at Baghdad�s Medical City the struggle continues.

It is an understatement to say that doctors in Baghdad have it tough. Hospitals were spared major structural damage from the war, but the looting of supplies and equipment that followed the fall of Baghdad crippled many of them anyway. Sheets, gauze, even air conditioners were stolen. The looting, combined with the longtime shortage of medicines and equipment in the country, makes it difficult for doctors to perform rudimentary medical tasks, like incubate a newborn.

Looting aside, hospitals face the same obstacles as the rest of the country. Postwar Iraq is riddled with difficulties, the foremost being the issue of security. Because criminal activity and random violence has only increased since the fall of Saddam Hussein, the number of people in need of medical care has gone up accordingly. Meanwhile, the number of medical staff has decreased. This is largely due to the fact that women, who make up most of the nurses, are now unable to travel or work safely at night, leaving male physicians to do double duty as both nurses and doctors. Iraqi security forces guard the hospitals in the evenings, patting down men for weapons as they enter the emergency rooms.

Although the U.S. government pays doctors more than they earned under Saddam, most still have to be financially supported by their families and consider their profession a humanitarian mission. The following photographs follow one of these doctors, Hussein Sabah, M.B.Ch.B., as he completes his first year working in the pediatric wing of Medical City, one of the largest hospitals in Baghdad.

Produced by Karen Mullarkey

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