Two years later, heavily punitive trade sanctions took effect following Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, followed by claims for post war reparations totalling $350bn. Iraq’s Ministry of Health budget plunged by over 90% as the country’s GDP dropped from $38bn in 1989 to just $10bn in 1996. The following year, health expenditure as a percentage of GDP was around 0.8%, as reported in the Human Development Report 2000. (Of note, as of last year Iraq had paid out $41.2 billion in reparations from a revised awarded sum of $52.4bn.)
This situation was eased only modestly by the turn of the century as sanctions were relaxed slightly, while other countries such as Jordan and Turkey circumvented the embargo (both covertly and overtly.) Jordan was virtually the sole foreign supplier of pharmaceuticals to Iraq, and Iraqi per capita expenditure on health was as low as $10 in 2002–a believable figure when considering the plight of the Marsh Arabs and the run down state of Iraq’s hospitals.
After the invasion, things initially got worse. Per capita income in 2003 was just $570 and as the country slid toward lawlessness and civil war, many more health professionals emigrated, were forced out by de-Ba’athification (at least 2367 recorded dismissals) or the takeover of the ministry by the Sadrist movement between 2006 and late 2007. According to the former head of the anti-corruption Public Integrity Commission Radhi Hamza al-Radhi, some $18 billion dollars were lost to corruption across all ministries in 2007.