Hilary Benn, the government’s international development secretary, likes to pose as a champion of the world’s poor.
But he has refused to meet a delegation of British and Iraqi doctors who are highlighting how basic equipment such as oxygen masks, injection needles and medical gloves are unobtainable in most Iraqi hospitals.
The country’s health service was once one of the most advanced in the Middle East, but has been reduced to rubble by sanctions in the 1990s and the chaos unleashed by the US-British occupation.
Nicholas Wood, who helped organise the doctors’ delegation, said, “In one hospital, the incubators are 36 years old and are held together by tape and a bit of wire. They are wrecks. They cost about £5,000 each – but that is nothing compared to the cost of a missile.”