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Conditions 'Terrible' in Baghdad Hospital-Red Cross
Mon April 7, 2003 12:21 PM ET
By Samia Nakhoul
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Grim scenes greeted Red Cross officials at the only Baghdad hospital they could reach through fighting on Monday, with casualties streaming in, surgeons working flat out and anesthetics running low.
A spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Baghdad said heavy fighting between U.S. and Iraqi forces in the city prevented officials reaching any hospital but Kindi, near the city center.
There, doctors said they had taken in so many casualties that they were running short of anesthetics and some equipment, which the Red Cross helped to replenish by delivering a truckload of supplies.
ICRC Spokesman Roland Huguenin-Benjamin told Reuters: "Surgeons have been working round the clock for the past two days and most are exhausted. Conditions are terrible.
"You could hear very close range explosions. The windows are rattling from the thud of explosions. We saw a lot of ambulances and private cars, bringing in casualties."
Doctors at Kindi said the hospital had taken in four dead and 176 wounded in the last 24 hours.
The picture was similar at Kadhimiya hospital in the north of the city, where doctors told Reuters correspondent Hassan Hafidh that 18 dead and 141 wounded had been brought in since Sunday.
Many patients said they were wounded by bombing as they tried to flee northwards by car on the road to the city of Mosul. One woman said she lost her parents and five siblings.
CLEAN WATER A PRIORITY
"If the others have as many (casualties as Kindi), it is problematic. Tomorrow, we will try to go to others," Huguenin-Benjamin said.
He said hospitals were now relying on generators and that getting clean water to patients was a priority.
"We have also delivered bags of drinking water, tens of thousands of liters, to many hospitals to make sure that patients do not drink water that is not clear," he said.
The ICRC is one of few humanitarian organizations to have international staff still in Baghdad, and at its headquarters in Geneva it said the capital was finding it hard to cope.
"Some hospitals cannot take any more war wounded. They are stretched to the limits," spokeswoman Nada Doumani said.
The wounded were not being turned away, but many hospitals have run out of beds and patients were being treated wherever doctors could find room.
Iraq's problems have been compounded by international sanctions against the government of President Saddam Hussein which made it hard to stock analgesics and morphine.
Aid agencies have long warned that Iraq and its some 26 million people were in poor shape after two earlier wars and years of sanctions.
Power outages in many parts of Baghdad in recent days had compounded health concerns because they cut electricity to hospitals and water treatment plants.
On Sunday, grids feeding Baghdad were mostly not working and less than 20 percent of households were receiving limited power during the night, the ICRC said in its latest report on Iraq.
"Water is becoming a worry. There are certain areas of Baghdad which do not have any at all," Doumani said in Geneva.
Lack of clean drinking water is a major cause of diarrhea and respiratory diseases, which already take a heavy toll of Iraqi children.
Paul Sherlock, an aid official working with the United Nations, said distributing water would be difficult with fighting raging.
"People will be able to manage for a day. If it goes on for longer, it means you will not be able to flush the toilets. You will have only limited water for straight drinking," he said. (Additional reporting by Richard Waddington in Geneva, Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman and Kate Holton in London)
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