Iraq | Programme areas | Primary Health Care

Primary Health Care

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Primary Health Care

  • The number of primary health centers, headed by mid-level workers: 1146
  • The number of primary health centers, headed by medical doctors:1185
  • There are 229 hospitals (general and specialized) including 61 teaching hospitals
  • Deliveries taking place in a hospital/health center/private clinic: 65.1% (IFHS 2006/7)

Primary Health Care (PHC) is essential health care based on practical, scientifically sound, and socially acceptable methods and technologies made universally accessible to individuals and families in the community through their full participation in the spirit of self-reliance and self-determination.

Technically, the health care system in Iraq has been on a centralized, curative and hospital-oriented model. Such a system has lacked the capacity to deliver services that address the major health problems faced by the majority of the population in an equitable and sustainable manner. The current structure of PHC is not based on cost-effective interventions that would ensure maximum health gains for available resources. Neither is it capable of responding effectively and efficiently to the complex and growing health needs of the population. The implementation of Basic Health Services Package (BHSP) will therefore address these issues and ensure the timely delivery of cost-effective, integrated and standardized health services tailored to meet the priority health issues faced by the majority of the population.

The BHSP will ensure delivery of equitable and accessible health services through four layers of health facilities, starting from the community health house up to the district hospital level. Gradually, the implementation of BHSP will be rolled out to all health districts in all governorates. This process will enable Iraq to meet the benchmarks of National Development Strategy (NDS) 2010 – 2014, International Compact with Iraq (ICI), Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) and the 2005 constitution of Iraq, which stipulates the devolution and decentralization of financial and administrative authority to the regional and governorates levels.

The MoH began to develop the BHSP under the strengthening primary health systems (SPHCS) project. The process started with a review of the health status of the Iraqi population to determine major health problems and to identify health services essential for addressing these problems. The PHC network was also assessed in terms of its infrastructure and human resources in order to determine the scope and type of services it is capable of delivering.

The health status of Iraq’s population has suffered major blows due to decades of war and economic sanctions. This has resulted in a severe drop in Iraq’s gross domestic product and consequently its public expenditure on health. Health services have deteriorated and the sector has faced continuous shortages in drugs and other supplies. Moreover, the current ongoing conflict and poor security situation has further damaged the country’s health infrastructure. Many health professionals have fled for safety to neighboring countries and abroad and the population’s access to basic health services has become increasingly impaired.

The Primary Health Care program strengthens the MOH efforts in order to have a system which is focused on PHC principles and values, assists MOH in the revision of National Health Strategy 2009-2013 in order to better align it to the current priorities, assists MOH in the formulation of National PHC strategy with focus on family practice model of service delivery, and assists MOH in the Finalization of Health Information System and Human Resources for Health plans.

National Health Account

Currently, WHO is assisting MOH in the establishment and institutionalization of a National Health Account (NHA) to compile information on the country’s health expenditures and help in development of policies and health care financing systems and social insurance.  WHO collaborative activities for establishment of NHA have trained staff and have developed the necessary tools

Health Information System

Although there has been progress, the existing system is still not tuned to reflect the values of timeliness and completeness of reporting. The system has difficulties in providing comprehensive information for evidenced-based management. The lack of computerization makes data analysis and information flow slowly, though some progress has been achieved in some of the governorates eg. Missan, Basra. The current reporting system is from the PHC centres to the Directorate of Health at the governorate level, and to the related directorates at the central level in the Ministry of Health.


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Key health-related statistics

Total population (000s) 37 140
Total health expenditure on health (% of general government expenditure) 6.5
Maternal mortality ratio (per 100 000 live births) 50
Number of primary health care units and centres (per 10 000 population) 0.7
Total life expectancy at birth (years) 69.8

Source: Framework for health information systems and core indicators for monitoring health situation and health system performance, 2018

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