— 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
"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
"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
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.
|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
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