Building Renovations Under Way
By Ross Adkins
Special to American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Sept. 28, 2004 There are not enough well-equipped medical facilities to heal the injured and sick, too few schools with teachers for children to learn, and too few buildings equipped to conduct the government's business.
U.S. Army and Iraqi engineers are doing everything they can to remedy these shortfalls.
"I am very happy with these starts," said Ahmed, an engineer and life-long resident of Baghdad. "It is the first step in our country's recovery. I want people to see what they can do. If they see and understand things are really improving, maybe they will become involved in the next step towards economic recovery; then maybe this craziness in our country will stop.
"Show them something new, and they will believe there is hope," he said.
Hope is being restored as more than $900 million is poured into building more hospitals, schools and government buildings throughout Iraq. This figure represents the building or renovating of 150 primary health-care centers; 19 hospitals, including a children's hospital in Basrah; 1,200 schools, including 16 new, contemporary secondary schools; and five major Iraqi ministry buildings that will serve as the nerve center for the country's economic and political recovery.
The nearly $1 billion is being provided by a number of sources including U.S. supplemental funds, Iraqi ministries and nongovernmental organizations. This is just one of several similar programs for improving the Iraqi economy.
Work is slated to begin Oct. 17 on the primary health-care centers; more than 30 will be under construction by Nov. 14. Another 30 are forecasted to start by Dec 12, and each is expected to take nearly nine months to complete. "The minister of health has set a goal of improving available health care to Iraqi citizens," Ahmed said. "His goal is to distribute facilities throughout Iraq according to the needs of the people."
That goal equates to establishing outpatient clinics to help relieve congestion at the country's already-busy full-service hospitals. Some of the new clinics will have X-ray facilities, laboratories and teaching capabilities.
The most tangible evidence for the Iraqi people, Ahmed said, is seeing the schools open -- giving children a place to learn and providing proof that things can and are happening. Already many have been repaired and will open for the school year next month.
The Ministries of Environment, Education and Higher Learning, Trade, Industry and Minerals are in line for the renovations. Upgrades will improve plumbing, wiring, air conditioning, communications and phone lines. They will also include painting and other improvements, readying the buildings for the ministries to move their furniture in and begin operations.
The Independent Election Commission building renovation was recently completed, paving the way for the Iraqi elections in January.
(Ross Adkins is assigned to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Gulf Region Division.)