Iraqis visiting Duluth hope for U.S. help with health care
Iraqi dentist Mahdi Al-Faraaon believes Americans can learn three things from his countrymen and women: Be patient, survive and never lose hope. Al-Faraaon, six physicians and one journalist are visiting Minnesota to build relations between healt...
Iraqi dentist Mahdi Al-Faraaon believes Americans can learn three things from his countrymen and women: Be patient, survive and never lose hope.
Al-Faraaon, six physicians and one journalist are visiting Minnesota to build relations between health-care professionals, universities and medical organizations. He said he hopes the visit results in closer relationships between the citizens of the two countries and assistance in rebuilding Iraq's medical system.
"Otherwise we are talking for nothing," he said during a panel discussion Monday afternoon at the Duluth Public Library.
The group visited Duluth from Saturday through Monday to meet local residents and participate in the "Navigating the Aftermath" tour, which features art, film and dialogue by Minnesotans and Iraqis on the Iraq War, its consequences and Iraq's future. The exhibit has toured eight Minnesota communities this year. It opened in Duluth on Oct. 12. Wednesday is its last day at the Duluth Art Institute and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation.
At Monday's panel discussion the group spoke of their country's medical needs.
"We have a shortage of medical equipment in all fields," Dr. Azar Maluki said.
Dr. Ali Rashid talked of the need for help in building hospitals and educating health-care professionals.
"Iraqi doctors are eager to learn, but we don't have the opportunity to learn," he said.
One of the goals with the Minnesota visit is to develop relationships that lead to training and exchange programs between Iraqi and American hospitals and medical and dental schools.
Such training and visits "must be increased to make advancements" Dr. Hadi Al-Wakeel said.
Many health-care professionals left Iraq during the past several years, Al-Faraaon said. Many, however, are returning. He doesn't worry that the country will slide into violence after American combat troops leave.
"I think the Iraqi Army and police can control the streets," he said.
Many of the Americans he's met regret the destruction that happened during and since the American-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Al-Faraaon said.
"There is a big difference between the people and the government," he said. "We need the American people to join directly with the Iraqi people to help us."
According to the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project, at least 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died and 80,000 have lost limbs from war-related violence since 2003. Many Iraqi children have been orphaned; more suffer trauma-related symptoms. More than 7 million Iraqis lack access to clean water.
"This visit is an opportunity for Minnesotans to welcome a group of physicians practicing in the midst of conflict," IARP Executive Director Kathy McKay said. "These are courageous professionals who have stayed in Iraq through eight and half years of war. They are looking forward to learning from American counterparts and meeting American citizens."
The group was happy coming to the U.S., finding Americans to be kind and peaceful, Maluki said. He hoped this visit leads to visits by Americans to Iraq.
"In civilian clothes," Al-Faraaon added.