Iraq: Where Things Stand

Certainly more money has been spent on health care since the prewar time -- but again, Iraqis in many parts of the country are not seeing the benefits. The health care system continues to suffer the effects of disrepair, lack of medicines, and poor equipment. "You can see the nice wards," Dr. Jareer Razaq Aziz told us at the main hospital in Nasariyah, "but there are no drugs." Hospitals and clinics are hampered by the problems in other areas -- poor sanitation and water supply, sporadic electricity and of course the threat of violence. The highest-profile example of this: the kidnapping, in November 2006, of the Deputy Minister of Health.

One note regarding the sectarian divide: The fact that the Ministry of Health is run by Shiites may account for the relative consistency noted by Iraqis in the south. A story of promise and potential is the building of the Basra Children's Hospital -- a $77 million project that is due to be completed in July 2008.

Statistics:

Hospitals built since invasion: none

Doctors and pharmacists murdered: 200 (approx.)

Doctors who have fled abroad: 15,000 (approx.)

Ambulance drivers in Baghdad:

2003: 80 2007: 400

Availability of Goods

North: same or worse Central: worse South: same

Commerce has been a good-news area, since we began putting together these reports. This year it presents a puzzle. In December 2005, 60 percent rated this area as "good;" now that figure is 38 percent. Part of this may reflect overall malaise; part, economic deprivation; part, the difficulties and dangers inherent in simply traveling to purchase available goods. In our poll, 54 percent of Iraqis -- rising to 74 percent among Sunni Arabs -- told us they often stay away from markets and other crowded areas in order to avoid trouble. And yet if they do venture out, Iraqis in many parts of the country can buy a wider variety of goods -- and in some cases more Iraqis have done so. Residents of Sadr City told us they have possessions -- appliances in particular -- they never dreamed of having before the war. The figures under "statistics" below show huge jumps in the number of Iraqis with cell phones and Internet service -- as well as a huge jump in virtually all forms of available media.

One can find -- as Terry McCarthy did at the southern port of Abu Flus, the Iranian border crossing at Zurbathia, or the northern city or Erbil -- places where goods and services are moving at rates higher than before the war, and where commerce has survived -- thrived, even -- despite the violence. Open borders, the lifting of prewar sanctions, and more disposable income have all contributed to an explosion in commerce.

During his travels in the Kurdish north, Terry McCarthy found a real-estate boom -- personified most dramatically by a proud and hopeful man named Nizar Hana, who is bankrolling a huge mall -- to the tune of 1 billion dollars -- in the center of Erbil.

Statistics:

Telephone subscribers:

Prewar: 833,000 (estimate; ONLY land lines since Iraq had no cellular network) January 2004: 600,000 January 2005: 2,449,139 August 2005: 4,590,398 January 2007: 8,100,000 (approx)

Mobile telephone in household:

February 2004: 6 percent November 2005: 62 percent March 2007: 89 percent

Internet subscribers (Does not include unregulated users at Internet cafes):

Prewar: 4,500 (estimate) January-April 2004: NA May 2004: 54,000 March 2005: 147,076 August 2006: 197,310

Washing machine in household:

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