In December 2018, I was invited to a cardiac hospital in Bangalore, India to meet Iraqi patients awaiting life-saving surgeries. Narayana Hospital provides free medical services to Iraqi nationals who do not have access to quality care in their country.


Iraqi citizens struggle to find doctors and surgeons willing to perform high-risk surgeries. In Iraq, hospitals are improving but many wealthy Iraqis are leaving to seek more immediate treatment in India. For those unable to afford treatment, life is increasingly difficult. Many families have been bankrupted by oversees costs, or simply not pursued treatment.

Zainab fell pregnant 14 years ago, “During the pregnancy I had severe lower back pain but I thought nothing of it. Shortly after giving birth I had an MRI and they discovered a tumour in my spine. For the past 14 years the pain has been increasing but I haven’t been able to afford the $6,000 surgery required, and Iraqi doctors said they wouldn’t risk the operation in case I was paralysed. Now I can’t walk, and they said the tumor has grown. I was nervous to leave Iraq and journey to India. I’m thankful we were offered free treatment and that other countries are helping support us as we rebuild. We want to be self sufficient, but it’s still early days”.

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Anber fought for six years in the Iraqi military during the Iraq-Iran war, “I was involved in a chemical weapon attack, but survived. I had body swellings all over, but mostly my eyes and neck. I stayed in hospital for 9 months and I was treated with sessions of radiotherapy. What was most difficult was discovering I was infertile. I thank God I had a child before. I’m now 68 and have paid for my treatment here at Bangalore Hospital. I have a blocked heart valve and severe asthma. I feel more than ever that the scars of the chemical attack have caused my heart disease”

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Hanan lost her eyesight four months ago and soon after Iraqi doctors discovered a large brain tumour, “the neurosurgeon in Baghdad said I would not survive if they removed the tumour. The mentality was always ‘there is no hope’. They all agreed it was too dangerous”. Overall healthcare in Iraq is poor and everyone is searching for treatment. Those with money get treatment in Iran or India - we’re lucky we were sponsored. There are many misconceptions about Iraq so I’m proud to tell people how beautiful our country is, and in turn I hope they can save my life for my three children. They need me”.

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Ahmed has just arrived at the hospital for his first appointment, “the reality is, we’ve spent our lives going from war to war. I regularly ask myself how we find the strength when nothing is stable. 11 months ago I fell from a ladder during work and was unable to pay the $14,000 surgery. How can anyone find that money? I stayed at home, unemployed and unable to move. I became depressed and increasingly suicidal. My friends stepped in an arranged this surgery in India for me which is sponsored by a charity. They’ve reminded me why life is worth living after years in the military. There’s a lot to live for and I know Iraq has a bright future”.


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