Responding to the deadliest coordinated attack in Iraq since 2007, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and physicians trained by International Medical Corps, provided life-saving assistance in central Baghdad. The two near-simultaneous suicide car bombings on Sunday caused massive destruction to the Ministry of Justice and surrounding buildings leaving more than 150 people dead and close to 600 wounded.
International Medical Corps-trained EMTs, working under the direction of the Ministry of Health, responded immediately to the scene to provide care within minutes. They administered emergency aid to patients scattered among the wreckage and transferred them to ambulances where they were rushed to local Baghdad hospitals.
Medical City hospital complex, which houses the closest hospital to the attack, received more than 150 of the wounded. Newly trained EMTs and their International Medical Corps trainers stopped in the middle of a certification ceremony, which was being held at the hospital, and rushed to aid the victims. Using the life-saving trauma techniques they had just learned, students resuscitated the wounded alongside International Medical Corps-trained doctors staffing the main receiving hospitals.
Madhafar Muhammad, one of the EMT trainees said, “We suddenly went from finishing the class to using our training on real injured people…they had blast wounds to the head, chest, and abdomen. The skills we learned in the International Medical Corps class were very, very helpful. We didn’t know [how] to do any of these things before.”
Despite a history of violence and trauma in the country, formal emergency care was previously very limited in Iraq. Over the last two years, International Medical Corps, with funding from Australian Agency for International Development and in cooperation with the Iraqi Ministry of Health, implemented a national emergency medical care development initiative for the country. This program is the first in-depth attempt to renovate the civilian emergency infrastructure. To date over 700 EMTs and 200 physicians have received training.
“This is a perfect example of how training and infrastructure strengthening can provide both immediate emergency response and sustainable health care improvement,” noted emergency medicine professor and program director Dr. Ross Donaldson. “Our hearts go out to the injured and their families.”
International Medical Corps has been working in Iraq for the past six years, creating sustainable initiatives focused on health care, humanitarian assistance, capacity building, and community engagement.