Challenges to the provision of emergency obstetric care in Iraq

Matern Child Health J. 2011 Jan;15(1):4-11. doi: 10.1007/s10995-009-0545-3.


To assess the availability of, and challenges to the provision of emergency obstetric care in order to raise awareness and assist policy-makers and development partners in making appropriate decisions to help pregnant women in Iraq. Descriptive and exploratory study based on self-administered questionnaires, an in-depth interview and a Focus Group Discussion. The setting was 19 major hospitals in 8 out of the 18 Governorates and the participants were 31 Iraqi doctors and 1 midwife. The outcome measures were availability of emergency obstetric care (EOC) in hospitals and challenges to the provision of EOC. Only 26.3% (5/19) of hospitals had been able to provide all the 8 signal functions of comprehensive emergency obstetric care in the previous 3 months. All the 19 hospitals provided parenteral antibiotics and uterine evacuation, 94.7% (18/19) were able to provide parenteral oxytocics and perform manual removal of retained placenta, magnesium sulphate for eclampsia was available in 47.4% (9/19) of hospitals, 42.1% (8/19) provided assisted vaginal delivery, 26.5% (5/19) provided blood transfusion and 89.5% (17/19) offered Caesarean section. The identified challenges for health care providers include difficulties travelling to work due to frequent checkpoints and insecurity, high level of insecurity for patients referred or admitted to hospitals, inadequate staffing due mainly to external migration and premature deaths as a result of the war, lack of drugs, supplies and equipment (including blood for transfusion), and falling standards of training and regulation. Most women and their families do not currently have access to comprehensive emergency obstetric care. Health care providers recommend reconstruction and strengthening of all components of the Iraqi health system which may only be achieved if security returns to the country.

MeSH terms

  • Delivery, Obstetric / standards*
  • Emergency Medical Services / standards*
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / standards
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospitals, Public / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Iraq
  • Maternal Health Services / standards*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications
  • Quality of Health Care / standards