more "Hospitals in Iraq looted"

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Posted by Sadie from D006106.N1.Vanderbilt.Edu ( on Monday, April 14, 2003 at 9:46PM :

Hospitals in Iraq looted
Monday, 14 April , 2003 18:28:00

Reporter: Jo Mazzocchi
MARK COLVIN: For Iraq's ailing hospital system, stripped by looters, the priority has become staffing. The International Committee of the Red Cross says while it can resupply the hospitals with this equipment, the biggest task is convincing medical professionals that it's safe to return to work.

The ICRC's spokesman in Baghdad, Roland Huguenin Benjamin, who remained in the capital throughout its darkest days, says while he's seen the very worst of humanity, there now appears to be some order coming back to the capital.

He's speaking to Jo Mazzocchi.

ROLAND HUGUENIN BENJAMIN: And now the situation for three or four days has been extremely unstable. It seems to have calmed down a little bit yesterday, and we just hope that some law and order is going to be re-established.

There are measures not being taken by the American forces occupying the capital, and it was our main concern that there should be security so that hospitals could relaunch activities.

JO MAZZOCCHI: And are there still armed guards at the front of hospitals?

ROLAND HUGUENIN BENJAMIN: Well, in the beginning the big problem was that there were no guards at all, so many of the large hospitals have been completely looted, robbed completely of all the furniture, equipment, even medical equipment, appliances, stocks of drugs and medicine.

It's just unbelievable. It doesn't make sense, especially when people need to go back to those hospitals. In the first day it was incredible that patients who had had surgery because they were wounded, had to flee the hospitals to be taken away by their relatives, in fear of attacks against the hospitals.

So most hospitals were left virtually empty. A few doctors stayed still in some hospitals, and I think they are heroes because they just fought back and tried to save the hospitals. Some residents organised themselves as kind of vigilantes, and saved a few hospitals from being looted.

So now we are left with a situation in which there are large hospitals that are not able to work, because they have no equipment anymore, some smaller ones that have survived, but had no staff coming to work, and some that are somewhere in between. Plus the medical city has had no water for many days, so it could not operate at all.

JO MAZZOCCHI: Is that the priority, to get health professionals back in the hospitals?

ROLAND HUGUENIN BENJAMIN: Yeah, that has been the case for the past two days, and today we will just look at how things are, what hospitals are able to work. Some we know of, one which is right next to us.

Even as we saw yesterday they were halfway able to work, because they had had some protection, they were just waiting for some of the staff to come back. But there are a few large hospitals that will need to be re-equipped fully, from the electrical appliances, to the beds, to the operating theatre.

JO MAZZOCCHI: So, are there actually any medical people in the hospitals as we speak?

ROLAND HUGUENIN BENJAMIN: Yesterday there were at some hospitals a small number, but many, many doctors actually come up to the officers of the International Red Cross to ask us and tell us, please we are from such and such a hospital, beg the Americans, plead with the Americans to let some armed vehicles guard our hospitals and we are ready to go to work immediately.

We have had lots of meetings with the Americans, who are also very concerned about the way things are developing. We are currently, at the moment of speaking, repairing the major damage that has been caused to the water distribution system, and we are working on that with dozens of the Iraqi engineers who spontaneously came to us and said, we are there, we want to do it with you.

MARK COLVIN: That's Roland Huguenin Benjamin, the spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, speaking to Jo Mazzocchi.

-- Sadie
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