Bodies lay in the sun as Iraq’s morgues overflow with Covid-19 casualties

(The National) Under the scorching heat of Iraq’s summer sun, at least four bodies of Covid-19 victims lay under sheets outside a Baghdad hospital morgue.

Nearby, the doors of one section of the mortuary lay open, the cooling systems inside are broken. The temperature in Baghdad hasn’t dropped below 40 degrees Celsius in weeks.

“They are here from yesterday under the sun,” says a man in a video shared widely on social media. Stood outside the mortuary of Al Kindi Hospital, he cries as he uncovers the body of his uncle.

“The mortuary is full, we are waiting for a car to pick them up,” the weeping man says.

The recent spike in coronavirus cases across the country has put Iraq’s healthcare system – decimated by decades of war, sanctions and corruption – on the brink of collapse.

Rundown hospitals, many built between the late 1970s and early 1980s, are overflowing. Most medicines and medical supplies are only available on the black market and medical staff are dying due to a lack of protective measures.

Desperate Iraqis are sending out appeals on social media seeking medicine, blood plasma and empty beds for loved ones suffering the effects of Covid-19.

One online video shows people scuffling over oxygen tanks outside a hospital.

The Director of Al Kindi Hospital, Dr Salim Al Bahadli, defended his hospital’s decision to keep the dead outside the morgue, saying there were concerns over keeping infected bodies with those who died from other causes as it could pose a threat to families collecting their deceased.

“We are in a crisis that forces us sometimes to make decisions that evoke feelings and strong opinions and this has been the case in other countries in the world,” Dr Al Bahdli told The National in a phone interview, saying his staff and hospital are under huge pressure since the outbreak.

“The situation at many of Iraq’s hospitals deteriorated rapidly, as waves of new cases exposed their capacity to cope with extraordinary pressure and overwhelmed their overworked and under-resourced staff,” a report last month by Enabling Peace in Iraq (EPIC), a US-based NGO that works in the country, said.

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