By Catherine Reilly.
Doctors in Ireland are being sought to provide expert treatment across a range of specialties to children in Basra, southern Iraq.
John Reynolds, founder of a humanitarian initiative, 4Basra, told IMT he was liaising with the US organisation Preemptive Love Coalition, which has been providing lifesaving heart surgery to children in Iraq, to form a multinational team of doctors to assist in patient treatment and medical training in Basra.
Doctors would work for a short period at either the Basra Children’s Cancer Hospital or the Maternity and Children’s Hospital, he said, and specialists in paediatric oncology, radiology and radiotherapy, renal transplant, ICU and critical care were particularly sought.
Irish doctors could go on a voluntary basis or under a short-term contract, with two missions envisaged per year lasting between 10 days and three weeks.
Reynolds told IMT there had been “initial talks” with the RCSI and some general feedback from the medical community. “There has also been initial interest from UK-based Iraqi doctors working in the NHS,” he said.
Asked what prompted his own interest, Reynolds explained that when the violence in Iraq was particularly bad some years ago, he was sitting in a waiting room at Temple Street Children’s Hospital, as an adult outpatient, wondering what conditions faced children requiring treatment in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
He became aware of humanitarian initiatives such as Preemptive Love, whose co-founder Jeremy Courtney was “quite prominent on social media” and has participated in TEDx talks. Reynolds said Preemptive Love, under whose auspices the doctors would be travelling, was “experienced” in logistical issues such as arranging flights, visas and secure accommodation.
Current guidance from the Department of Foreign Affairs advises Irish citizens against all travel to Iraq due to the “extremely dangerous security situation” and “very high threat of terrorist attacks”.
Reynolds, who visited Basra in May 2011, acknowledged that a “100 per cent guarantee” on safety was not possible, as with many parts of the world, but due to a number of factors he felt that Basra was considered “a lot safer” than other parts of Iraq, such as Baghdad.
According to an article published in The Lancet in March (doi:10.1016/S0140-6736 (13)60658-3), life expectancy at birth in Iraq is 59 years and the rate of children dying in the first year of life is 32 deaths for every 1,000 live births — about the same as it was in 1989.
Some 84 women die in childbirth per 100,000 live births, according to Iraq’s Ministry of Health and the WHO in 2011, and Iraq is among the group of 68 countries that account for 97 per cent of all maternal and child deaths.
• Doctors interested in finding out more can email John Reynolds at johnrey email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org