Friday, 06 April 2018 23:28

Fighting TB in time of displacement in Iraq: IOM

IOM Iraq, in partnership with Iraq’s Ministry of Health and other humanitarian partners, is in the forefront of efforts to reduce the burden of tuberculosis (TB) in the war-ravaged country.

Throughout 2017, IOM Iraq’s medical teams reached more than 72,000 people including internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, returnees and vulnerable host community members, through health promotion sessions in order to identify and refer suspected TB cases.

In the same period, IOM has supported Iraq’s National TB Programme (NTP) with medical screening of more than 8,800 suspected TB cases and the treatment of 135 new TB-infected individuals.

At a ceremony held in Baghdad to commemorate World TB Day on March 24, Iraq’s Ministry of Health and a number of NGOs recognized IOM Iraq’s wide-reaching work in fighting TB in the country.

“In the last few years, IOM Iraq has played a crucial role in the fight against TB, especially in areas heavily affected by armed conflict and displacement,” said Dr. Dhafir Hashim Salman, head of the Iraqi Society for Fighting Tuberculosis and Chest Diseases.

“IOM’s support, through awareness raising about TB in different communities and the screening and detection of potential cases, has been critical. IOM has also provided modern diagnostic equipment and medications,” added Dr. Salman.

With an incidence rate of 43 per 100,000 people (World Health Organization’s Iraq TB Country Profile – 2016), Iraq has the highest TB prevalence among its neighbouring countries.

“Longstanding conflict and interruption of treatment due to lack of access to TB services, and lack of strict compliance with the required six-month medication, have put Iraq at a disadvantage compared to its neighbours,” said Dr. Nedal Odeh, the head of IOM Iraq’s Emergency Health unit.

Social factors such as lack of TB education and awareness also contribute to the prevalence of TB in some areas of Iraq.

National public health systems in Iraq have been deeply affected by years of conflict, and many newly established health facilities do not have medical equipment such as X-ray machines or laboratories to detect and confirm TB infections.

“I have followed six months of treatment and am very happy that with the help of IOM, I will be fully cured next month,” said Ramal Kamal Nader, 23 years old, who was diagnosed with TB in October 2017.

Ramal, a member of a vulnerable host community where many IDPs live, first visited a private clinic in Erbil for treatment; the local physician referred him to the IOM team, who assisted him to access the NTP centre in Kasnazan, Erbil.

“During the course of treatment, I was able to continue my work at the bazar. IOM medical staff visited me at home four times per week to take care of me and ensure that I took my medicine,” said Ramal, adding that he also referred a friend who is infected with TB to the IOM team for assistance.

Since October 2014, IOM Iraq has been implementing the TB programme as part of its emergency health programme, in support of the Iraqi Ministry of Health’s NTP, and in close cooperation with WHO and Health Cluster partners.

“Our focus is on vulnerable communities of IDPs, refugees, returnees and host community members, especially those in hard-to-reach areas,” said Dr. Odeh.

With 14 medical mobile teams covering 13 governorates in Iraq, Dr. Odeh said, IOM is committed to support and strengthen the national healthcare system; particularly in areas where access to specialized services remains limited.

In areas of high displacement, the return of IDPs to their areas of origin will ease the pressure on existing healthcare services, enabling IOM and health partners to focus more on stabilizing health systems in areas of return.

While considered to be one of the deadliest infectious diseases worldwide, in most cases TB can be treated successfully with antibiotics, as long as diagnosis is made early.

IDPs, refugees and other crisis-affected communities are often vulnerable to TB due to low immunity – caused by lack of adequate nutrition, unhygienic living conditions and lack of access to early detection services.

Moreover, IOM participates in and strengthens the surveillance system Early Warning and Alert Response Network (EWARN) for communicable diseases through reporting any cases of TB and other communicable diseases.

According to the latest data provided by IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM), more than 2.2 million Iraqis are still displaced while over 3.6 million others have returned to their areas of origin.

For more information please contact:

Sandra Black in IOM Iraq, Tel: +9647512342550, Email:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Additional Info

  • Agency: IOM

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