BASRA, Iraq - Iraq's Minister of Health, Dr. Salih Mahdi opened the doors to the Basra Children's Hospital, the largest and first specialty care facility in Basra, Iraq, Oct. 21.
After six years and $166 million, the proposal that stemmed from former First Lady Laura Bush's desire to provide health care for the children of Iraq has finally become a reality, said Peter Bodde, assistant chief of mission, U.S. Embassy Baghdad.
The Basrah Children's Hospital is a state-of-the art acute and referral care facility that specializes in pediatric oncology.
The hospital was primarily built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The 16,000 square foot complex includes 101 beds, 11 utility rooms, four care units, three special procedure rooms, three clinics, two operating rooms, an emergency room, and one dental suite, said Robert Jackson, construction representative Corps of Engineers. The facility is also equipped with an oxygen plant, steam autoclave and a warehouse.
"More importantly, this hospital is full of enthusiastic Iraqi staff who are dedicated to its success from highly trained medical teams to hard-working technical support staff," Bodde said.
Success was achieved through collaborative efforts of the governments of Iraq, the U.S., Spain, United Nations organizations and Project HOPE charity.
"We do this because we believe a healthier world is a safer and more secure world," Bodde said.
While the hospital has officially opened, there is still work to be done to improve the level of care the facility and its staff are capable of providing.
"We still have work to do in order to fully fulfill our promises," Bodde said. "Though construction has been completed and basic pediatric medical services are being offered, oncology services are several months away."
The hope is that Basra Children's Hospital is able to make early diagnoses and provide treatment for children suffering from cancer in southern Iraq.
"A 2003 study about leukemia in Basra found an increase amongst children and most of the cases of leukemia are high-risk," said Dr. Janan Hasan, a pediatrician at Basra Children's Hospital.
"The five common forms of cancer account for 50 percent of all cases in Iraq," said Bodde. "A large portion of these cancers are preventable and half can be detected at early stages of development and if diagnosed in time, four types are curable by standard therapies."
"We must stay focused on the long term, not only addressing the urgent needs that people have today, but building the foundation for a better health tomorrow and for the next generation," he said.
The Basra Children's Hospital is one of many healthcare initiatives the U.S. has been involved with in Iraq.
"The U.S. has supported renovation and construction of over 140 primary health care facilities across Iraq," Bodde said.
"We believe that health promotes social and economic progress and realize the dream of providing a foundation for a strong and healthy future for Iraq's children," he said.