A protester speaks to Rudaw in front of the UN compound in Erbil. Photo: Rudaw TV
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Cancer and other patients of chronic diseases continued to gather in front of the United Nations headquarters in Erbil, calling on the international community to pressure Iraq to lift the international flight ban and pressure Baghdad to provide more medicines to the KRG.
A grandmother who uses a wheelchair told Rudaw that they do not care about who is good or bad: "All I care about is being provided with medicine for my eyes, heart, diabetes, blood pressure, and all my illnesses."
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi imposed the international flight ban on the Kurdistan Region after the independence referendum in September. It is set to expire next Wednesday. People in the Kurdistan Region view it as a measure introduced to punish them for the vote.
Another woman called on the UN "to find a solution for these patients as they know that KRG is facing crises and all countries have turned their backs on Kurdistan."
The Kurdistan Region lacks specialized treatment for many types of cancers and other diseases, so if financially able, many travel to Europe for treatment.
A statement was read by the representative of the protesters.
"Patients with cancer and chronic illnesses are in a very bad situation. We are on the brink of death if you do not help us," it expressed.
The statement also blamed the Iraqi government for not sending sufficient medicine to the Kurdistan Regional Government while local public hospitals are lacking medicine.
"God will hold you responsible in this life and hereafter... If you cannot take the responsibility then step down," was one woman’s message to the political leadership.
KRG Health Minister Dr. Rekawt Hamarashid told Rudaw that after a delegation visited Baghdad and met with Iraqi Health Minister Adila Hamud in late January, the Iraqi health ministry sent the KRG 11 trucks of medicine and they have now arrived in the Kurdistan Region.
Kurdish officials say that the Iraqi government had sent Erbil its full 17 percent share of medicine until the budget dispute in 2014, when they began reducing the amount.
Iraq is yet to pass a budget for 2018.
Kurdish health officials claim that many of the medicines they purchase go to internally displaced Iraqis from the center and south of the country.
The demonstrators began their protest