Travels in the South – Iraq

James Longley recently traveled to Nasiriyah filming the story of a sheik in Moqtada Sadr’s religious-political movement. This is a narrative of his journey, with a side trip to Al-Garraf, a nearby town.

There is only one full-time doctor working in the medical center that services 150,000 people. There are almost no facilities and the doctor’s role is limited to prescribing medication and administering first aid in emergency cases. All long-term patients are moved to the hospital in neighboring Nasiriyah. Many essential drugs are not available at all. In fact, all the medicines in the Al Garraf medical center pharmacy came from the warehouse in Nasiriyah, and are leftover supply from before the war 9 months ago. No new medicine has been supplied to the city medical center since the U.S. forces entered Iraq, with the exception of a few drug samples given to them by the Italians.

Those I talk with in the medical center agree that conditions there are worse now under U.S. occupation than during the UN sanctions against Iraq. “At least before we had some drugs coming in through the Oil For Food Program.” says Qablan.

The largest employer in Al Garraf was a carpet factory not far from the medical center. It even made carpets for Saddam’s palaces. Now all the equipment has been removed to prevent theft and the structure stands idle. “It would only take about $10,000 to get this place running again.” says Qablan, “But now nobody is certain who has the right to buy or sell the factory, because it was previously owned and operated by the state. It can only be decided after a legitimate government has been elected. Until then we will have to wait.”

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