A West Midlands charity has been hailed for its invaluable efforts in helping to rebuild Iraq's health system by educating Iraqi doctors, consultants and midwives.
Baby Lifeline - a Coventry-based charity that raises money for life-saving equipment and training for health care workers - flew more than 20 British medics to Kuwait for its first international conference, a three-day event which began yesterday.
During the Gulf War and the recent conflict in Iraq, most medical facilities were destroyed or looted, leaving communities unable to access healthcare.
Under Saddam Hussein's regime, medical officials were unable to leave the country to attend seminars overseas, and as a result a skills gap opened up in its health sector.
Obstetric and gynaecological practices that are commonplace in British hospitals for coping with situations such as breech birth, pre-eclampsia and neonatal resuscitation, are being demonstrated to delegates who will then share these skills with local colleagues.
Judy Ledger, founder and chief executive of Baby Lifeline, said the charity had no option but to stage the conference after hearing how dilapidated the Iraqi health system had become.
Work began on the Kuwait project when another founding member of the charity, Charles Cox, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at New Cross Hospital in Wolver-hampton, returned from serving with the Territorial Army in Basra last year.
"We had wanted to put on an international conference before but when Charles told me about how the conflict in Iraq had affected health-care it became a mission to take our skills out there," said Mrs Ledger.
"Delegates have been telling me that this is the sort of event they've wanted and needed for so long.
"When the first Iraqi delegates came through they were so excited to be here with colleagues from all over the country.
"The idea is the people here over the next three days will be able to disseminate what we're teaching them to their colleagues, so we're not just showing how it's done in the UK, we're also educating them so they can educate others."
The conference, being staged at the Kuwait Hilton Resort in Falaheel and the first event of its type to be held in the Middle East for many years, is also being heralded for improving relations between Iraq and Kuwait.
Dr Raad Salman, director general of health in Iraq, said: "This conference will be an opportunity to bring the two countries closer and to exchange the experience and expertise in this field of health.
"There was no connection between medical professionals during the time of Saddam because it was made very difficult, impossible for them to get to events like this."
About 50 Iraqi and 90 Kuwaiti delegates are taking part in the conference and more are expected to arrive today to receive expert training in obstetric medicine, despite security remaining tight in the region.
Dr Ali Kubba, an Iraqi consultant community gynaecologist at Guy's, King's and St Thomas' School of Medicine, in London, said: "Iraq's healthcare system has endured severe challenges in past and present times, and women bore the brunt of the service's degradation.
"As Iraq emerges from the catastrophes of recent years, the care of women and children must top the agenda here."