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Iraqi epilepsy medication shortage causing children's deaths - UN

4 May, 2005

Iraqi doctors
have reported a shortage of medication for children with epilepsy
because of the high cost of purchasing the drugs needed to treat the
condition, according to a United Nations agency working in the country.

Dr Muhammad Toufick told the UN's Integrated Regional Information Networks
(IRIN) in Baghdad that the lack of medicine is affecting most of his
patients and that there have been four cases since March where children
have died because they have not received vital medication.

A
spokesman for IRIN said that in a country where the economy is still
reeling from war and years of sanctions, the price of medication is too
high for most Iraqis and most pharmacies don't even stock such
expensive drugs because of the low demand. During Saddam Hussein's
regime, many medicines were provided under the now defunct Oil-for-Food
Programme.

Dr Toufick added:

'The
Iraqi government should face reality and not behave as if there are
sanctions in the country now. They should save the lives of these
innocent children as soon as possible before we lose more lives.'

According
to government statistics, there are around 4,500 children with epilepsy
in Iraq. Staff from international non-governmental organisations told
IRIN that because of the high cost of medicines, they are also having
difficulty supplying them and said that they had already alerted other
international health organisations to the situation.

The
Ministry of Health said Kimadia, the state-run main supplier of
medicine in the country, is trying to ensure that basic drugs are
available at all paediatric hospitals in the country but acknowledged
that much more is needed. A senior official in the ministry commented:

'Since
the fall of the last regime these drugs have been in shortage and those
who can afford them are buying them from the black market. But we are
trying to ensure that essential drugs are available.'