The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on 31 March it was concerned about the lack of medical supplies in hospitals in Baghdad and Basra after fighting between government forces and a Shia militia flared up on 25 March.
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“Hospitals have used up stocks of vital medical items and require further supplies to cope with the influx of wounded patients. Access to water remains a matter of concern in certain areas,” the ICRC said in a statement.
Eight tonnes of medical items were on their way to four hospitals in Baghdad, the ICRC said. Another six tonnes of medical supplies was due to be handed over to local health authorities in three southern provinces - Kut, Hilla and Najaf.
The director of Imam Ali Hospital in eastern Baghdad, Qassim al-Midalal, told IRIN his hospital was in dire need of first aid materials such as bandages, cotton dressings, sutures and other surgical consumables.
“We need fuel for our generators and cars, cooking gas and food for patients. We also face another problem - the difficulty our staff face getting to the hospital due to the curfew and clashes,” al-Midalal said.
The week-long fighting between the Mahdi Army militia loyal to Shia radical leader Muqtada al-Sadr and government forces subsided after a truce, but some areas still remain tense.
The round-the-clock curfew in Basra has been eased and is now enforced only between 10pm and 6am. The curfew in Baghdad has been lifted, except in Sadr City and in two other Shia neighbourhoods considered strongholds of the Mahdi Army.
“While some areas in Baghdad and Basra remain tense, people have begun to move freely again this morning. Fearing a deterioration in the situation, they were stocking up on food, water and other essential goods,” ICRC said.
“No one can guarantee how long this lull will last,” said Jassim Yacoub Mohan, a Basra resident who had stocked up on 250 litres of drinking water, flour, cooking gas, rice and dried food.
“I don’t want to go through the same tragedy we had last week. It was terrible,” Mohan, a 39-year-old father-of-two said.
The ICRC said medical services had been affected during the fighting in Basra, Baghdad and elsewhere in the country.
“Several ambulances were hit in Basra and some were not allowed to reach injured persons in urgent need of medical care,” said Juan-Pedro Schaerer, head of the ICRC delegation in Iraq.
“It is the duty of the parties to the conflict to provide safe passage for ambulances and to spare the wounded and those taking care of them,” Schaerer said in the ICRC statement.
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