I would like to report on how information and social media can contribute positively to providing essential services to cancer patients in Iraq during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We reported a few weeks ago about how COVID-19 affected cancer services in the country. The Ministry of Finance in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) has decided to pay only 2% of the due of pharmaceutical companies providing cancer treatment medications. This decision has resulted in a severe shortage of chemotherapy and other treatments for cancer patients in KRI.
Doctors and nurses protested against this by boycotting work at one of the main cancer treatment centres in the country (Hiwa-Hope Hospital). For the first time, patients joined doctors and nurses protesting against the lack of services.
Within a few days a massive social media campaign was started in the support of cancer patients and doctors and nurses working at the Hiwa Cancer Hospital. Thousands of peoples changed their profile pictures on facebook to bear the logo of Hiwa hospital. Multiple hashtags appeared on social media calling for an end of the measures mentioned above against Hiwa and its healtworkers. A major media channel also announced a campaign in support for Hiwa and its employees.
Within days politicians and the Kurdistan Regional Government responded. The Co-leader of one of the major parties of the ruling coalition visited the hospital. The Prime Minister of the KRG quickly issued a statement and called the minister of health expressing support. decisions were also made to pay doctors and nurses in the hospital their full salaries and to pay the pharmaceutical companies their full dues.
This case illustrates the positive impact accurate information and focused efforts to social media and other media outlets can play in enhancing access to essential services during the pandemic.
*MBChB, MPH, MRCP (UK), MRCPE, PhD*
Associate Research Fellow
Middle East Research Institute
Iraq country representative for HIFA
E mail: email@example.com
HIFA profile: Goran Zangana is a medical doctor and Associate Research Fellow with the Middle East Research Institute, Iraq. He is a HIFA country representative for Iraq and is currently based in the UK.
goran.zangana AT meri-k.org