Iraqi government fails to address rise in autism

IraqIraq – Al-Monitor reports that doctors have ‘limited capabilities when it comes to diagnosing autism or treating it properly.’

Dr. Khaldoun Hamid al-Hafiz, who is a pediatrician specialising in treating neurological disorders including autism said that this is an unfortunate reality and he’s currently trying to support efforts of local community centres in Baghdad that support autistic children.

Dr Hafiz told that there are no specialised pediatric psychiatric clinics and that children are treated in clinics for adults.

Dr Hafiz also said that he discovered many of the children were wrongly classified as autistic and that the taking of medications prescribed for autism had dramatically worsened their health.

Dr Hafiz is also reconsidering returning to Britain, were he has previously worked, because of the lack of medical resources to treat the condition.

He had initially gone to Iraq to conduct studies about autism and had hoped that the country would be open to his idea of opening specialised centres in which to conduct research about the disorder.

He told of his shock in how none of the governmental institutions were interested in this.

Al-Monitor visited the Iraqi Institute for Autism earlier this year, which is a community centre that treats autistic children. It was noticed that the majority of the centre’s clients had been victims of domestic violence as the families of the autistic children did not know how to deal with them.

The paper report that:

‘It became clear that the lack of societal and familial awareness toward autistic children is widespread and is not easily addressed.’

Today there are no precise statistics on autism in Iraq.

Dr. Taha Jazza from the Center for Educational and Psychological Research addressed this issue. He noted that a study conducted by a specialist at the centre, showed that 7,000 known children are dealing with autism in Iraq. However this is not a true measure as it was only able to access the children registered at the 16 autism centres in Iraq.

The original article published on the Al-Monitor website can be found here