Saturday, March 29, 2008

USA Today Article Blames Sadr

A recent USA Today article titled "Sadrists' grip on Iraqis' health care takes toll" indicates that Sadr and his cronies control the Ministry of Health and it's Kimadia agency and use them as a tool to exercise power. The presence of a large portrait of Sadr's relatives outside the Ministry offices is offered as confirming evidence.

In part, the article says:
Al-Sadr's control over Kimadia, the state-run company that is responsible for importing and distributing drugs and supplies to Iraq's hospitals, also poses problems, Ferrati said.

"Kimadia has a stranglehold on the whole medical sector, and that is a source of power through which Sadr can control the health sector and threaten the country," Ferrati said. "If they decide to stop working, then you cut off all the drugs into Iraq."

This is interesting because it suggests a face or group identity to blame for the supply woes afflicting Iraq's hospitals, but I suspect it might be erroneous or oversimplified. If I had to guess I would say not all of the Health Ministry is corrupt although serious corruption would be consistent with the poor job Kimadia seems to be doing; Kimadia's personnel in Mosul seem to have the respect of my contacts there although they are far from satisfied with the job Kimadia is doing. I suspect many Ministry and Kimadia people are honest enough and if there are miscreants they are probably a minority, possibly in management positions if they are in fact Sadr's politically appointed agents. Also, I have seen no indication that the medical supply situation is better in any particular place in Iraq than others, suggesting that rather than withholding medical supplies from some parts of Iraq that don't toe Sadr's line and providing them to other areas that do, necessary supplies are being denied to (or stolen from) all without prejudice. This would be more consistent with diverting medical supplies for profit and using the proceeds to finance criminal/sectarian activities than bartering the supplies for favors. That would match reported profiteering on diverted oil in southern Iraq where militis are reportedly heavily involved it that corrupt trading problem. If medical supplies and drugs are being diverted for profit, it's presumably happening in Baghdad and involves collaboration of militias.

Of course I'm half a world away and have no direct knowledge of any of this, but something pretty outrageous is causing serious problems for Iraq's hospitals.


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