A country too broken to protect itself from the coronavirus.
Pity the doctors of Iraq. Thousands are thought to have contracted covid-19. If the disease doesn’t get them, local tribesmen might. “Every time a patient dies we all hold our breath,” says Dr Tariq al-Sheibani, the director of a hospital in southern Iraq. A month ago a young man from the Hasnawi tribe died of covid-19 in his hospital. That night, as Dr Sheibani left work, 20 of the dead man’s relatives beat him unconscious. The doctor is trying to press charges (cctv cameras captured the scene), but officials told his family that they would be safer if he did not.
对伊拉克的医生们表示深深的遗憾。据说，有数千名被认为是感染了新冠。如果不是他们自己感染的，那么就是本地居民传染的。伊拉克南部的一家医院院长 Tariq al-Sheibani 医生说：”每次有病人死亡，我们都会屏住呼吸“。一个月前，Hasnawi部落有一名男子在医院死于新冠。当晚，Sheibani医生结束工作后，死者的20多个亲戚朋友把他打得不省人事。这名医生试图提出指控，但是政府官员告诉他的家人，如果他不这么做，他们会更安全。
Most Arab regimes have dealt with covid-19 by tightening their grip. Not Iraq. It gave up on lockdowns long ago. The government seems powerless to enforce social distancing or the wearings of masks (some men see the coverings as an insult to their virility). It has little money to spend on a health service gutted by war and corruption. Clergymen still organise mass gatherings. Officially the virus has infected more than 350,000 Iraqis and killed more than 9,000. That is surely an undercount, yet it is still more than in any other Arab country.
Like Iraq’s tribes, the country’s Shia ayatollahs set their own rules. They are going ahead with Arbaeen, an annual pilgrimage to Karbala, a holy city. Thousands of Shia faithful have already begun walking the 500km from Basra, eating and bedding down together in wayside huts. The risk of transmission will increase further when hundreds of thousands more converge on Karbala on October 7th. The surrounding province already has the country’s secondhighest infection rate, probably because of a pilgrimage in August.
The government has tried to limit foreign pilgrims by closing Iraq’s land borders and restricting flights from Iran. But there is only so much it can do. “People believe visiting the tomb of Hussein [in Karbala] cures covid-19,” sighs a former government health adviser. Muqtada al-Sadr, a firebrand cleric, has led a campaign to keep the shrines open and defied a ban on Friday prayers. Lately Iraqis have been haphazardly digging up relatives who were buried in a special “coronavirus cemetery” so that they can be given proper funeral rites.
政府试图通过关闭伊拉克的陆地边境和限制伊朗的航班来限制外国朝圣者。但是它能做的也就只有这么多了。一个前政府健康顾问叹息道：”人们相信，通过参观在卡尔巴拉的 Hussein 坟墓能够治愈新冠“。一位有煽动性的牧师 Muqtada al-Sadr 已经领导了一场运动来维持神殿的开放，并且无视禁止周五祈祷的禁令。最近，伊拉克人可以随意挖出已被埋在特殊的”新冠墓地“的亲人，以便给他们一个合适的葬礼仪式。
Better medical care would help. Iraq spends about half as much per person as its poorer neighbour, Jordan, on health. A lot of it is wasted—or stolen. The health ministry is led by a technocrat, but it is full of Mr Sadr’s men, who stand in the way of reform. Just ask Alaa al-Alwan, who tried to clean it up. The former health minister resigned last year, citing excessive pressure from within the ministry. Other officials persuaded him to stay on—but he resigned again months later, citing corruption, blackmail and defamation.
更好的医护将会有所帮助。伊拉克的人均医疗开支，是它的穷邻居约旦的一半左右。很多都被浪费，或者被贪污了。卫生部门由一个技术官僚领导，但是里面充满了萨德尔的人，这阻挡了改革的进行。这些只要问问尝试清除这里的Alaa al-Alwan 便知道了。前任卫生部长在上年辞职了，理由是来自卫生部门内部的过度压力。其它官员曾劝说其留任-——但是他几个月后又以腐败、敲诈、诽谤为由辞职。
Today there are fewer hospital beds and doctors in Iraq than before the American invasion in 2003, though the population has almost doubled. Some 20,000 doctors have fled abroad, says the Iraqi Medical Association, the doctors’ syndicate. Many of those who remain recently went on strike over poor working conditions (basic items, such as masks, are lacking). Hospital directors are so short-staffed that they are loth to let infected doctors go into quarantine. Meanwhile, falling revenues caused by a collapse in the price of oil mean the government has no money to hire thousands of medical graduates. The prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, suggests they volunteer. The least the government could do is protect them from angry tribesmen.
尽管与2003年美国入侵前相比，伊拉克的人口几乎翻了一番，但医院床位和医生数量却比之前要少。根据医生组织，伊拉克医疗协会所说，有将近2万名医生已经逃往国外。许多留下来的人最近因为工作条件恶劣而罢工（比如口罩等基础物品短缺）。医院主管人员太缺人手了，他们不愿意将被感染的医生隔离。同时，因为石油价格暴跌导致政府税收下降，这意味着政府没有钱去雇佣数千名医学毕业生。总理 Mustafa al-Kadhimi 鼓励他们去当志愿者。政府至少可以保护他们不受愤怒的部落人员伤害。