— By Suleiman al-Khalidi
AMMAN (Reuters) - U.N. relief agencies warned on Sunday of a
health crisis facing the five million inhabitants of Baghdad, with
hospitals overwhelmed and infrastructure devastated as U.S. forces
tighten their grip on the city.
"We expect a severe deterioration of the health situation during
the days to come due to the daily bombardment that results in damage
of infrastructure and sharp rise in civilian casualties," Fadela
Chaib, World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman told reporters.
Earlier Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross
(ICRC) said Baghdad hospitals are struggling to cope with a deluge
of wounded that has stretched resources to the limit and caused
The WHO official said medical staff in Baghdad's major hospitals
were "overwhelmed" and access to health care and drugs was
..."getting more difficult as stocks currently cannot be
There were reports of shortages of medicines such as analgesics,
antibiotics, anesthetics and insulin and surgical items, Chaib
The U.N.'s health body contacted 10 major medical stores in Amman
to procure 54 urgently needed medicines and medical supplies to send
to Baghdad as soon as possible.
WHO coordinator Jim Tulloch said from Kuwait that the agency was
hearing reports of hundreds of civilian deaths in the war and
thousands of wounded civilians.
"The exact numbers don't really matter, there is for us no
acceptable level of civilian casualties," Tulloch said in an
interview with CNN.
"These numbers whatever they are, are made up of individuals,
children who have third degree burns, children who have had to have
their limbs amputated and will never walk again, pregnant women who
are having miscarriages," he said.
"We feel it is extremely important to call on all parties
involved in this war to do absolutely everything possible to
minimize civilian casualties."
DAMAGE TO INFRASTRUCTURE
David Wimhurst, spokesman for the United Nations Office of the
Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq (UNOHCI), said extensive damage to
Baghdad's infrastructure from the 18-day-old war was now a major
impediment to treating the wounded and getting aid.
"Damage to infrastructure is further hampering relief efforts in
and around the city," Wimhurst said, citing the destruction of a
bridge leading south from Baghdad which made alternative routes
south out of the city unsafe.
The ICRC considered the situation in the city "near critical"
with water systems to become quickly affected with no maintenance of
power plants and generators, although fuel was still available,
Wivina Belmonte, spokesperson for the U.N Children's Fund
(UNICEF), said the aid body was particularly worried about the
impact of the war on Baghdad's children, almost half of the
"We must make sure that Baghdad does not become another Basra,"
she told Reuters.
Fighting in and around Iraq's second city has limited water,
electricity and medical supplies, forcing many civilians to flee.
The lack of adequate clean water was hampering efforts to treat the
Belmonte said UNICEF was concerned about reports in the last few
days of the use of cluster bombs in densely populated urban
"These cruel and clumsy weapons are already reported to have
claimed the lives of Iraqi children and their use must end," she
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