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Originally produced for UNICEF

When Dr. Maha Asghar began work in Muhajeran two years ago, the clinic building was “pure misery,” she said. “It was old, cramped and hard to keep clean. No one could function well in such a place.”

These days, the new centre is rising like a phoenix on the site of “misery.” Supported by UNICEF with funds from the UK Committee for UNICEF, the new building, Asghar says, “will be a beacon for the community. It will send a message to people that their health and the health of their children matters to us. It will also help us serve them better.”

While the new clinic is being built, temporary accommodation has been found in a building across the street. The files for every family in the community are neatly organized on makeshift shelves. But the unassuming cardboard folders hold the key to Asghar’s plan to improve health care in Muhajeran: She uses them to keep track of the health of children and families in the community.

Opening several, she points to the records of growth and immunization, of children who are on schedule or who have fallen behind. The order of work for the day includes sending out mobile teams of health workers to follow-up on the defaulters, to encourage them to bring their children to the clinic.

“Because of the polio eradication campaign, we now know where all the children under five are living. We use that information to follow-up on other health services, including full immunization against all other preventable diseases.”

The Muhajeran clinic, which should be completed by March 2003, is one of 10 clinics serving deprived communities in southern Iraq that is being re-constructed with support from the UK Committee for UNICEF. In all, $200,000 has been dedicated to the rehabilitation of the clinics, which serve more than 200,000 people.

UPDATE: The Muhajeran Clinic was looted in the days following the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Within weeks UNICEF had been able to provide supplies to ensure the clinic could restore operations. Working under extremely difficult conditions, Dr. Maha Asgher continues to provide health services to the people of Muhajeran.

Basra Clinic Makeover

Dr. Maha Asgher (right) and health worker Muhsin Abdulla outside the temporary clinic in Muhajeran. The new clinic was built with support from UNICEF and the UK Committee for UNICEF was scheduled for completion in March 2003, the same month as the invasion

Top, inside the old clinic;

Below, the new clinic under construction