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Iraq: Who said he was insane?

21-11-2002 News Release 02/47

When Abdul-Karim suggested that each group of units at the El Rashad mental hospital should have its own individual source of water, the staff were somewhat taken aback.

  Wasn't he a patient at the largest mental hospital in Iraq, and as such hardly the kind of person one would turn to for advice on crisis management of hospitals?  

When Abdul-Karim suggested that each group of units at the El Rashad mental hospital should have its own individual source of water, the staff were somewhat taken aback. Wasn't he a patient at the largest mental hospital in Iraq, and as such hardly the kind of person one would turn to for advice on crisis management of hospitals?

El Rashad is 13 kilometres outside Baghdad and covers a surface of 24 hectares (60 acres). In keeping with the housing style in the region, the hospital buildings are single-storey units with neither basements nor air-raid shelters. The 23 units are constructed around a series of courtyards in which the patients spend most of their day in cooler months, whereas during the torrid summer months they sit in bare, tiled rooms equipped with plastic furniture and a caged television set placed out of reach at the top of the wall.

During the 1991 war, both the hospital itself and the local water-supply system were damaged during an air raid. Since most of the staff were unable to get safely to work, the patients were largely left to themselves for days. As a result, they had no access to drinking water.

With time, Abdul-Karim's suggestion began to be taken seriously and a team of ICRC engineers sunk a well in the patch of land in front of each group of units. Large basins were also installed to make it easier to wash t he big cooking pots. In addition, a new water-distribution system is currently being completed that will connect all parts of the hospital compound, so there is reason to hope that the sad episode of 1991 will not be repeated.