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April 12, 2003
 
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(Reuters Photo)
ICRC Urges U.S. to Secure Wrecked Baghdad Hospitals

Reuters


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GENEVA (Reuters) - Medical care at major Baghdad hospitals remains virtually paralyzed, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Saturday, again urging U.S. forces to protect health workers in the Iraqi capital.

An ICRC spokeswoman said the United States had started preliminary contacts with the Swiss-based humanitarian agency about what priorities to set in restoring order after Saddam Hussein's administration collapsed under a U.S. onslaught.

Spokeswoman Antonella Notari in Geneva said ICRC colleagues in Baghdad had not moved around the city much so far on Saturday due to reports of continued looting and gunfire. In some neighborhoods, armed vigilantes have taken to the streets to catch looters themselves.

"The reports they are getting -- and they did have to visit some of the surgeons from the various hospitals around town -- are still very alarming. The medical staff continues to feel under threat, the hospitals are still not secured at the moment," the spokeswoman for the Swiss-based agency said.

"It is still extremely difficult to move around town, even for patients needing medical care. Those with chronic conditions who need follow-up treatment don't know where to go any more," she said.

"Those big hospitals which have capacity for war surgery and for more sophisticated treatment are ransacked to a great extent. We remain extremely alarmed about the situation."

The ICRC has said the 33 hospitals in the city of five million people were in no shape to cope with war-wounded or patients with chronic diseases like diabetes.

Notari said talks had started with U.S. officials on what action to take in Baghdad.

"There seem to be some moves from the American side to consult us on where do we think the priorities lie, where do we think action can be taken," she said.

"For us the message is very clear. If there is security people might come back to work, people might resume their tasks, but for the time being more than anything else what the coalition forces need to do is to ensure security around vital infrastructure," she said.

Notari said coalition forces in Iraq were an occupying power under international law and thus had an obligation to administer vital public services.

U.S. Marines plan to impose a night curfew in parts of Baghdad on Saturday in an attempt to stop the looting.

Marines patrolling the east of the city would challenge people still out on the street after dark.

President Bush promised Iraqis in a videotaped message on Thursday that the United States and its war allies would help maintain law and order.


photo credit and caption:
Staff at a Baghdad hospital treat a wounded man that hospital sources say was hurt in a rocket attack by U.S. forces, April 11, 2003. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Baghdad's medical system had all but collapsed because of combat damage, looting and fear of anarchy. I Photo by Oleg Popov/Reuters

Copyright 2003 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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