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Crumbling Infrastructure Slows Iraqi Growth

As the U.S. military leaves Iraq after more than eight years of war, the country's weakened infrastructure struggles to provide daily needs. Despite billions of dollars set aside for reconstruction, Iraqis interviewed at several locations say they still cannot rely on public services.

Baghdad is a noisy, crowded city. And despite years of turmoil, new restaurants and shops are opening.

But it is also a city that struggles to function, much like the rest of the country.

Razor wire and concrete blast walls are slowly becoming a thing of the past.

But nearly nine years of war, and earlier years of international sanctions, have left many Iraqis without steady, basic services.

There is seldom enough electricity and power outages are common, unless residents can connect to nearby generators.

Fish seller Jaafar Abdul Hamza says life is difficult. “We are suffering from a lot of things. Security is better, but we suffer from a lack of electricity and water,” Hamza said.

Medical services are especially lacking, even at Ghazy al-Hariri Hospital, one of Baghdad's best.

Patient Khalis Hussein, says he suffers more from hospital conditions than he does from his kidney failure. “Doctors are good, and so is the medical staff. But there is a lack of services, the elevators do not work and the stairs are locked," Hussein said.

Still, trauma surgeon Ahmed Saleh says things have improved since the mass terrorist bombing casualties of five years ago.

“The situation changed dramatically in the last two years, when the attacks decreased. We receive nowadays just road traffic accidents. We still receive trauma patients due to bullets, missiles, a few attacks for explosions, but not the big explosions like 2005, 2006,” Saleh said.

Today there are fewer bomb victims, but the lack of experienced doctors is a problem.

“We got all the supplies that we need, but we need training, we need outside training, from United States, United Kingdom to improve our work. We have got the experience, but we do not know how to use it,” Saleh said.

At home, Iraqis like English teacher Wameedh Refaat blame the government for the lack of services. “There is no reconstruction in the country, and I do not see anything that is being provided for the interest of my children's future,” Refaat said.

There has been some rebuilding - just not as much as many Iraqis expected from billions of dollars in international aid.

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    Sharon Behn

    Sharon Behn is a foreign correspondent working out of Voice of America’s headquarters in Washington D.C  Her current beat focuses on political, security and humanitarian developments in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Follow Sharon on Twitter and on Facebook.