My name is Badenan Ibrahim Fathulla. I am originally from Kurdistan and have spent much of my working life in Baghdad. I am currently working as a specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist at the Royal Free Teaching Hospital in London. I have been married to surgeon Mustafa Zangana for 26 years and am proud Mother to daughter Givan and son Meer. Women’s health is my passion. My vision is to help women in poorly resourced spots to have better quality life. My mission is to train the medical profession to reduce potential damage to women during pregnancy and indeed – throughout all her life.
I was first introduced to Nina Magazine at a medical conference held at the Iraqi Cultural Centre in London last October. I spent some time thinking about the invitation Madeleine and Sana had issued to me to write a column. As you can see I decided to take them up on their invitation! My reason for doing so is simple – I believe in hard work, linked to a task well done. As a medical professional with more than 30 years’ experience, I want to use Nina to build awareness around real issues facing women in Iraq in order to create action and change. So, welcome to my first piece of writing for Nina – created in the belief that by sharing information we change not only our own lives but also others also.
Back to basics then; having spent most of my working life in Iraq (from 1984 till 1998 when I came to England) I can say from first-hand experience that health education in Iraq is patchy. With Iraq battling on so many fronts the main problem is the lack of resources. For example, years of wars and unrest have meant that the health system is insufficiently structured. This of course means there are few health records kept. Medical training and lack of public access to free health services are also issues. All the above has led to a high mortality and morbidity.
Building awareness alone cannot of course solve this. But I do hope that through this column I am able to create a consistent educational platform to help people understand issues around physical and mental health – starting at the very basics. For example, it makes no sense if we talk about a medical problem in pregnancy if we haven’t already addressed the need for pregnancy care in the first place!
So, my manifesto:
- Any advice I give will be sensitive and aware of the difficult daily challenges faced by women living in Iraq.
- I believe my job here is to help, inspire, and lead – but we also need to be aware of the fact that health improvements take time and need good input.
- I want to inspire with positive stories of people who may be sick, but have recovered, or have shown particular strength and resilience.
- Health work is a vocation and an adventure; I approach this column in the spirit of both.
- All personal information to support stories and case studies will be treated confidentially – any names used will be altered.
- I will try to answer your questions and point you in the right direction in terms of getting further support and information where appropriate.
Talking of stories – I would welcome your stories, of struggles you have had and of good things that have happened also. Of course I will also share mine! For example, last week I presented the topic of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) at a Kurdish Medical scientific meeting, exploring real facts and figures (reports suggest FGM in Kurdistan stands at 75% – I personally believe a percentage representation of 5%, or even less, is more accurate!). We also addressed the current situation of the refugee camps under the threat of ISIS and the challenges we are facing as a nation in terms of medical care. We also heard from a Kurdish cardiac surgeon who works in Sweden and took unpaid leave to volunteer to work on the front line.
As a well-respected Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, I am recognised as a specialist in my field and so am often asked to speak at national and international events. With your help I would be pleased to let others know of the bravery and determination of the Iraqi people against all odds from a medical perspective. I am even thinking of going back myself as my Swedish colleague did (i.e. as a volunteer), as there is real need for female medical specialists. However, before then I have booked to go to the annual Royal College Conference in Australia in April. I will be presenting there as well.
So – to finish off: Please do read and participate. If we manage to raise awareness among the public for the need of structured free health system in Iraq and educate at the same time, our achievement will be priceless.
Starting today, here at nina-iraq, we have a platform we can speak from. We can use it to share the knowledge we do have. I believe every human has a shared responsibility to help – it is our responsibility towards the world. I look forward to hearing from you!
Contact Badenan at: [email protected]. .