Cancer

Donated Cancer Medication Bolsters Hospital in Iraqi Kurdistan

Hiwa Cancer Hospital treats thousands each year, including many displaced due to conflict.

Staff prepare medications at Hiwa Cancer Hospital, the only specialized cancer hosital in Iraqi Kurdistan, and the second-largest provider of cancer care in all of Iraq. In partnership with Kurdistan Save the Children, a donation of requested chemotherapy medicine from Direct Relief was delivered to the hospital in January 2019. (Photo courtesy of Kurdistan Save the Children)
Staff prepare medications at Hiwa Cancer Hospital, the only specialized cancer hosital in Iraqi Kurdistan, and the second-largest provider of cancer care in all of Iraq. In partnership with Kurdistan Save the Children, a donation of requested chemotherapy medicine from Direct Relief was delivered to the hospital in January 2019. (Photo courtesy of Kurdistan Save the Children)

Hiwa Cancer Hospital, the only specialized cancer hospital in Iraqi Kurdistan, and the second-largest public provider of cancer care in all of Iraq, received a donation of specifically requested, targeted chemotherapy medication valued at $1.03 million USD from Direct Relief over the weekend.

The medications were donated by Mylan and Ascend Laboratories, and the shipment was coordinated with Kurdistan Save the Children.

The infusion of medicine enables hospital staff to continue providing essential advanced cancer treatment services to patients.

Hiwa Cancer Hospital is the only specialized cancer hospital in Iraqi Kurdistan. A recent donation of requested chemotherapy from Direct Relief was delivered to the hospital in January 2019 in coordination with Kurdistan Save the Children. (Photo courtesy of Hiwa Cancer Hospital)
Hiwa Cancer Hospital in Slemani, Iraqi Kurdistan. (Photo courtesy of Kurdistan Save the Children)

In the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, access to healthcare and medicine affordability remains a challenge for many.

The region is emerging from a tumultuous economic recession, which started in 2014.  Instability in the region was compounded in 2016 when conflicts in Iraq and Syria triggered a massive influx of internally displaced persons, or IDPs, and refugees into Iraqi Kurdistan. As of 2019, an estimated 2 million IDPs and refugees reside in Iraqi Kurdistan, further straining the region’s limited public resources.

In the public healthcare sector, budget cuts and increased patient load have led to a shortage of essential medicines needed to treat a wide array of health conditions. Patients already short on cash have had no other choice than to purchase their prescriptions from private pharmacies or healthcare providers; for many with chronic or life-threatening conditions, such as those with cancer, this untenable expense has driven many into poverty.

For the estimated 2,000 to 4,000 patients who are newly diagnosed with cancer in the region annually, approximately 3,000 are treated in Slemani at Hiwa Cancer Hospital. Many of those patients are documented IDPs and refugees in precarious financial situations.

Cancer in the Developing World

Medications and supplies are stored at Hiwa Cancer Hospital, the only specialized cancer hosital in Iraqi Kurdistan, and the second-largest provider of cancer care in all of Iraq. In partnership with Kurdistan Save the Children, a donation of requested chemotherapy medicine from Direct Relief was delivered to the hospital in January 2019. (Photo courtesy of Hiwa Cancer Hospital)
Medications and supplies stored at Hiwa Cancer Hospital. (Photo courtesy of Kurdistan Save the Children)

Cancer has become a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, with tens of millions diagnosed with the disease each year. That’s why reducing early death from the disease is one of the World Health Organization’s Sustainable Development Goals, which aims to reduce mortality from noncommunicable diseases including cancer by one-third by 2030.

While much of the disease burden is currently found in developed countries, 70 percent of all cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries – signaling major equity gaps in cancer prevention, screening, diagnosis and treatment.

Staff prepare medications at Hiwa Cancer Hospital, the only specialized cancer hosital in Iraqi Kurdistan, and the second-largest provider of cancer care in all of Iraq. In partnership with Kurdistan Save the Children, a donation of requested chemotherapy medicine from Direct Relief was delivered to the hospital in January 2019. (Photo courtesy of Hiwa Cancer Hospital)
Staff prepare medications at the hospital, which treats a large number of refugees from Syria and internally displaced people from Iraq. (Photo courtesy of Kurdistan Save the Children)

As populations continue to grow and age, and as data gathering in low-resource settings becomes more reliable, the majority of newly diagnosed cancer cases are expected to shift to countries with fewer resources.

And with health resources in these places already spread thin, it remains crucial to strengthen and assist local cancer care providers.

Targeting Treatment Across 35 Countries

A young patient draws at Hiwa Cancer Hospital, the only specialized cancer hosital in Iraqi Kurdistan, and the second-largest provider of cancer care in all of Iraq. In partnership with Kurdistan Save the Children, a donation of requested chemotherapy medicine from Direct Relief was delivered to the hospital in January 2019. (Photo courtesy of Hiwa Cancer Hospital)
A young patient draws at Hiwa Cancer Hospital, which provides essential cancer care for children and adults in the region. (Photo courtesy of Kurdistan Save the Children)

Direct Relief has delivered approximately $106 million USD of oncology and adjunctive therapies to facilities providing cancer treatment across 35 countries since 2016. Direct Relief is also a member and implementing partner of the Union for International Cancer Control and its City Cancer Challenge Initiative, as well as the Global Coalition Against Cervical Cancer.

Related Stories

The Latest