The contract calls for supporting a reformed Iraqi Ministry of Health at national, regional and local levels. It also entails delivering health services, providing medical equipment and supplies, training and recruiting health staff, providing health education and information and determining the specific needs of the health sector and vulnerable groups such as women and children. Abt will co-ordinate with international organisations, including UNICEF and the World Health Organisation, which are already working in the local health, water, and sanitation sectors.

The health system strengthening contract is the seventh of eight initial contracts put out to tender by USAID since the end of January as part of its overall relief and reconstruction efforts. The outstanding contract is for work on Iraq’s international airports.

Abt Associates describes itself as one of the largest for-profit government and business research and consulting firms in the world with 1,000 employees. Abt has worked on USAID’s five-year worldwide privatisation and development project. This involved an Africa-wide review of privatisation programmes for the Office of New Initiatives of USAID’s Africa Bureau. Other projects completed include a $45 million health programme which called for the privatisation of government-owned pharmaceutical industries in Kazakhstan.