by Jamal Hashim
BAGHDAD, March 4 (Xinhuanet) --
Sledgehammering a wall of a deserted building inside a US-protected area in
Baghdad, Iraqi constructors joined their other compatriots to take another step
forward to rebuild the war-ravaged country.
On the site of the old
building, which used to be a center for training special bodyguards for the
toppled Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, it would erect an academy that would
train professional medical personnel for the country's postwar health
The US-funded program, with costs exceeding 4
million US dollars, was part of an effort to train human resources for the
Health Ministry, acting minister Muhammed Ali al-Hakim said.
"One of the major priorities for the ministry is training and capacity building
of doctors and medical employees," Hakim said at a ground-breaking ceremony
Thursday inside the Green Zone, which houses the interim Iraqi government and
the US embassy.
US Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte
delivered a speech in the ceremony, but his voices was soon muffled by the noise
of machines used to demolish the building.
The facility is
expected to be complete in October, when students will probably still have to
pass numerous US-manned
checkpoints before they reach the
"Things will change and the students will have an
agreeable situation," an Iraqi official assured reporters, who were shown around
the construction site in the center of the zone.
officials considered the program as a major step in rebuilding the health system
after decades of negligence.
development in Iraq has been stagnant in the past years due to destructive wars
and international sanctions.
The academy will serve as home
to non-degree producing programs in management, leadership, clinical skills and
continuing education, the officials said.
"The first task,
which will be implemented within the next few months by the academy, includes
training a staff of 150 in the new health care center," said
In the first year, it will hold a training program
for the staff, while it is expected to become a public health school that will
serve as a model for the Middle East in the future, the official
To the reporters' surprise, Negroponte joined the
construction team in carrying bricks and adding them with mortar to a replica
"Today we witness another sign of growing of a
democratic Iraq, a country where people are once again free to pursue their
interests and claim their places in the community of civilized nations," said
"Iraqi doctors, nurses and administrators will
teach here and students will learn here ... It will make the provision of health
care in Iraq more efficient and more responsive," the US official added.