Providing healthcare under ISIS: A qualitative analysis of healthcare worker experiences in Mosul, Iraq between June 2014 and June 2017

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Original Article

During ISIS occupation of the Northern Iraqi city of Mosul between June  2014 to June 2017, healthcare workers remaining in Mosul continued to provide medical services. Little is currently known about Iraqi healthcare workers’ personal and professional lives in the ISIS healthcare system, and how these individuals adapted. This study sought to explore their experiences during occupation through thematic analysis of qualitative data from twenty interviews conducted immediately after ISIS withdraw from Mosul in August 2017. Participants were sampled from healthcare facilities still in operation after liberation and included healthcare workers of varying disciplines, age and gender. Participants described major changes to their personal and professional lives under ISIS and an
extremely limited perceived ability to negotiate the challenges of providing healthcare in the ISIS system. They described terrifying working environments, the strict separation between the sexes, restricted movement, and continuous monitoring by the Al-Hesba
morality police. Infractions of ISIS law and subsequent punishment, deaths and kidnappings, changes in personal relationships, poverty and the disrupted schooling of children were also discussed. The importance of protection by supervisors, access to additional money and transportation were highlighted. Understanding these hardships may help support

Research highlights

  • . This study represents one of the first known qualitative analyses of the experiences of healthcare workers in Mosul, Iraq under ISIS control since the city’s liberation in June 2017.
  • . This study expands broadly on what little is known about the economy, law and healthcare services under ISIS.
  • . This exploratory analysis highlights the great hardship experienced by health workers in Mosul, and underscores the need to plan appropriate interventions in order to retain healthcare staff post-conflict. Such interventions may aid in the recovery of the local healthcare services and improve the health of the population of Mosul during this vulnerable time of the city’s rebuilding.

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