Understanding the impact of conflict on health services in Iraq: Information from 401 Iraqi refugee doctors in Jordan

Gilbert Burnham, Sana Malik, Ammar S. Dhari Al-Shibli, Ali Rasheed Mahjoub, Alya'a Qays Baqer, Zainab Qays Baqer, Faraj Al Qaraghuli, Shannon Doocy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Objectives: This study aims to assess how conflict has affected the function of Iraqi health services and its doctors. Methods: Interviews were conducted in person or by mobile phone with 401 Iraqi doctors entering Jordan since 2003, using respondent-driven sampling methods. Results: Of the Iraqi doctors interviewed in 2008, 94% came from Baghdad, although 25% had moved within Iraq in the past year. They reported a steady year-by-year decline in Iraqi health services from 2003 through 2006, with perhaps some improvement in 2007. By 2006, 67% of doctors said essential drugs were present less than half of the time (95% confidence interval [CI] 54-81), and 69% (95% CI 56-84) said essential equipment was available or working half the time or less. By 2006, 95% said their facilities lacked skilled health workers, and 90% noted reduced quality of care. Violent death rates among doctors in Baghdad reached 47.6/1000/yr (95% CI 42.0-53.7) in 2006. In the same year, migration rates for Baghdad doctors moving elsewhere in Iraq were 143.8/1000/yr (95% CI 134.0-154.1), and departure from Iraq was 299.5/1000/yr (95% CI 285.3-314.3). Conclusions: Deterioration of health services quality, staffing levels and violence against doctors continued from 2003 through 2006, although these may have improved slightly in 2007. In 2009 and 2010, reports suggest that assassinations of doctors and out-migration have continued. Few have returned.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e51-e64
JournalInternational Journal of Health Planning and Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • Conflict
  • Doctors
  • Health systems
  • Iraq
  • Refugees

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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