Iraq: ”The sight of dying children and mothers is something I will never forget”
corona pandemic

Iraq: ”The sight of dying children and mothers is something I will never forget”

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, anaesthesia nurse Akil Begdali in Iraq has been living in constant fear of infecting his family. He has been confronted with death every day.

“It’s been very tough, seeing so many patients die. Every day, an average of five people have died of covid. At the very least, 2,700 patients at my hospital have died of covid. We Iraqis are used to living closely together, so social distancing has been difficult. When someone dies, a couple of hundred people go to the funeral.

Since the first patients came to the hospital, I’ve been in constant fear that I would infect my family. As an anaesthesia nurse, I’m only 20 centimetres away from the patient when I insert the oxygen tube into them.

I’ve been very careful before meeting my family. We have showers at work, but there are always long queues, so I’ve set up a shower at home in the yard. When I get home, I shower and leave my work clothes outside after disinfecting them. Both my wife and I were vaccinated early.

When we received the first covid-infected patients last year, we didn’t know how to treat them. We didn’t get any training, and we had to teach ourselves by reading online and watching YouTube. We’ve learned from each other and from experience. None of my colleagues have died. However, 20 doctors have died – but that was probably because they were old and had underlying conditions. Our routines have changed as a result of the pandemic. We sometimes have had to borrow staff from other departments to be able to keep up. Sometimes even from other hospitals.

Akil Begdali

Age: 37.

Workplace: Hussein Hospital in Karbala, Iraq.

Salary: Approximately SEK 8 000 per month.

Qualifications: Upper-secondary school and two years of studies at a nursing institute. 

Even though we work as close to covid patients as the doctors and medical students, we have not received any bonuses or any appreciation for our work. But the doctors have. We’ve been promised plots of land by the authorities as compensation, but we haven’t seen any of that yet. I wonder if we really will get any compensation.

The only advantage is that when we have finished our tough eight-hour shifts without any breaks or rest, we have been given two days off. Then I was able to spend time with my children and my wife. But there hasn’t been so much rest because I study in the evenings.

The second wave, when we got patients who were infected with the Delta variant, was most difficult, because then we had younger patients and pregnant women. In some cases the mothers died, and in some cases the children died. The sight of dying children and mothers is something I will never forget.

It’s not over yet. In June and July, we began to see a large increase in the number of covid patients again.”

Interviewer: Urban Hamid

corona in iraq

Cases: 1 998 615

Deaths: 22 187

Deaths/100K: 56,4

Fully vaccinated: 6,0%

Source: Johns Hopkins University and Ourworldindata, 30 September 2021.

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