Iraq Appeals To Exiled Doctors To Return

A person injured in a truck bomb blast gets treatment in a hospital in Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, Aug. 3, 2008. A truck bomb exploded during rush hour Sunday on a busy commercial street in northern Baghdad, killing at least 12 people and wounding about two dozen, Iraqi police and health officials said. (AP Photo/Adil al-Khazali)[Click image for details ]
AP Photo/Adil al-Khazali
The Health Ministry has appealed to Iraqi physicians who fled the country due to violence to return to their jobs because security has improved, an official said Sunday.

Dr. Essam Namiq, a deputy minister of health, said more than 165 Iraqi doctors have responded and resumed their work over the past 20 days, and he expected more than 90 percent to return this year.

The violence of the past five years, much of which targeted professionals, "had forced the majority of the Iraqi doctors to abandon their hospitals and clinics" Namiq told a press conference in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone.

"After the remarkable progress in the security situation, the ministry e-mailed the doctors who have fled the country in the past to ask them to return back to develop the health sector in the country," he added.

A package of incentives, including boosted salaries, has been made available by the ministry to encourage those doctors to return home, Namiq said. He didn't elaborate.

The U.S. military, which has been hesitant to declare the security gains irreversible, joined in the plea for doctors to return.

"We agree that the return of the fathers of medicine is important to this great country," said Brig. Gen. Joseph Caravalho, the military's surgeon general in Iraq. "They represent a significant population of senior physicians and surgeons and their return is vital to Iraq's success as a regional health care leader."

Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Iraqi has witnessed an unprecedented exodus of medical personnel with scores of doctors slain or kidnapped for ransom and that has left Iraq's already troubled system almost paralyzed with poor medical infrastructure and shortage of medicines.

Since then, 618 medical employees, including 132 doctors, as well as medics and other health care workers, have been slain nationwide, according to figures issued early this year by the Iraqi Health Ministry.

Hundreds, possibly thousands, of other medical personnel are believed to have fled to Iraq's northern semiautonomous Kurdistan region and neighboring countries.

The security situation has dramatically improved since last year when Iraqi government and U.S.-led forces launched a widespread military operations against militants and gangs.

In Other Developments:

  • The U.S. military said two American soldiers were killed in non-combat incidents Saturday — one southwest of Baghdad and another north of the capital. A total of three soldiers were injured in the two incidents, the U.S. said.
  • A truck bomb exploded during rush hour Sunday on a busy commercial street in northern Baghdad, killing at least 12 people and wounding about two dozen others, Iraqi police and health officials said.
  • Also in Baghdad on Sunday, a police chief escaped unscathed when a roadside bomb exploded next to his vehicle in Nahda neighborhood in northeast Baghdad, wounding 9 people, including 3 policemen, said the police. The blast occurred near a police station.
  • Elsewhere, a roadside bomb killed six people, including three Iraqi soldiers, and wounded 13 others Sunday south of Baghdad, police said.
  • In Tarmiyah, north of the capital, a clash between U.S.-allied fighters and civilians killed one civilian Sunday and wounded 10 others, local police said.
  • Late Sunday, the governor of Babil province escaped injury when a roadside bomb exploded near his convoy in west Baghdad, provincial police said.