The healthcare sector in Kurdistan is arguably the sector with the biggest gap in the Region and the biggest need for foreign investments. Only $195 million have been invested in healthcare projects in the Region so far. Kurdistan’s healthcare infrastructure is severely underdeveloped as it was overly neglected by the Iraqi central government during the reign of Saddam. As a result, efforts are being made to allocate a greater part of the Region’s budget to the healthcare industry. Although the KRG does not wish to entirely privatize the healthcare sector, it recognizes the importance of foreign investments in rebuilding its healthcare infrastructure.

According to survey results released by the Kurdistan Ministry of Planning, around 37% of the population lives at least 10 kilometers away from a hospital and 21.5% live more than 5 kilometers away from a pharmacy. Additionally, based on 2010 statistics, the number of doctors per 1,000 inhabitants stands at 1.5 and the number of beds per 1,000 is around 1.78. These numbers illustrate the need for healthcare centers and pharmacies in the Kurdistan Region.
  Erbil Duhok Suleimaniyah Total
No. of hospitals 32 14 27 73
No. of hospital bed 2,730 1,334 3,038 7,102
No. of monthly patients 180,676 134,823 169,383 484,882
No. of monthly hospitalized patients 12,621 8,427 17,201 38,249
No. of doctor 2,460 663 2,900 6,023
Correspondingly, most of the Region’s medical drugs are being imported. Controversy surrounds this matter as the import of pharmaceutical products is improperly regulated, often resulting in counterfeit or expired products entering the Region and being sold to the public. Consequently, internationally renowned pharmaceutical manufacturers with a well established track record looking to enter the Kurdish market could employ their international credibility as an advantage in the market, marketing their products as credible and reliable with the help of international quality certifications.

The KRG welcomes foreign healthcare specialists and has imposed numerous incentives with regard to this sector such as foreign land ownership in the setting up of private clinics and hospitals as well as pharmaceutical plants. Additionally, in the case of hospitals, the KRG claims it may give additional tax and duty exemptions on the purchase of supplies and furniture. The aim of these incentives is to raise the Region’s healthcare standards and expertise with the help of foreign health specialists. Internationally accredited diagnostic centers and private clinics are extremely desired in the Region at the moment.

A recent development worth mentioning is the Medya Diagnostic centre which is the first medical laboratory in the Region to achieve international ISO accreditation. It offers a pathology laboratory as well as radiology services. Furthermore, the KRG has signed an agreement with the United Kingdom’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists with the aim of training local medical professionals in maternal and neonatal healthcare.

As for pharmaceutical manufacturers, Awamedica was established in 2009 in Erbil and is the first medical drug manufacturer in the Region. It currently produces pills and tablets, and claims to impose strict internal quality control standards. Later on in 2010, a second pharmaceutical plant was set up in Sulaymaniah called Pioneer. It offers a wide range of products including capsules and tablets, syrup and intravenous solutions.