It is well known that reconstruction will be a major issue in post-ISIS Iraq. The destruction of homes, businesses and infrastructure as a result of the battles raging across the country was exacerbated by the militants’ “scorched earth” policy that sought to destroy or loot all remaining utilities in a bid to render the areas they lost ungovernable for the Iraqi Government. Such was the case of in the town of Azim in Diyala Province.
The town suffered immense damage due to the actions of ISIS militants who destroyed nearly every utility and infrastructure during their retreat. The healthcare infrastructure was no exception. The town’s main health centre was looted and subsequently demolished.
When the displaced residents of Azim returned to their town, they found that not even the simplest supplies were available. The town’s healthcare needs were met, barely, from a group of medics operating from a tent. They were, however, understaffed and unable to meet the needs of the residents who were suffering from many chronic conditions borne out of their displacement or the harsh desert weather. Residents suffering from more serious ailments were forced to travel to the nearby town of Khalis or the city of Baqubah 60 kilometres south.
That was in the past. Over the recent months, the Diyala Health Directorate, working with the International Red Cross, has rebuilt and reopened the town’s health centre, supplying it with the medicine and equipment needed to serve the needs of the Iraqis here. The shiny and clean interiors of the new health centre is a far-cry from the tent that the residents had to use before.
The three-year ISIS occupation of northern and western Iraq and the resultant displacement have caused the collapse of many sectors, healthcare included. Many Iraqis were unable to access sufficient healthcare and many ailments were exacerbated by conflict, sieges and displacement. The reconstruction and rehabilitation of healthcare centres therefore represents a vital step for the return of normal life in conflict-struck parts of Iraq. The health centre here in Azim was one of 11 such centres in Diyala that was destroyed by ISIS and the restoration of all of these centres is a vital objective.