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ICRC resumes work as hospitals in Baghdad endure shortages

As war casualties continue to crowd Baghdad hospitals, many medicines remain in short supply and vital staff are unable to work.

Most aid organisations in the Iraqi capital have suspended operations, but on Thursday morning, IRIN learnt that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had resumed work, despite the extremely volatile security situation.

An ICRC spokeswoman, Nada Doumani, told IRIN from Geneva that despite one of their foreign workers having been shot and killed this week, the five other expatriate staff members and local workers were back on duty after having suspended work temporarily.

"Today, our colleagues, although we consider it as a day of mourning, they think that the situation is still quite critical at the humanitarian level and they started visiting hospitals as usual, carrying out what we used to do," Doumani said.

"One of the big hospitals, the Medical City in Baghdad, 650 beds, they have no water and no electricity and so you can imagine how difficult it is for the surgeons to operate," Doumani said. ICRC would be delivering thousands of litres of water to the hospital today [Thursday], she noted.

However, other aid groups have been unable to continue their work at this time of greatest need. Jean-Christophe Dolle of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) told IRIN from the Jordanian capital, Amman, that MSF's programme remained suspended due to the disappearance of two staff members over a week ago. He said there had been no witnesses to their disappearance and no word on
their whereabouts.

The Premiere Urgence coordinator in Amman, Andreea Bodea, told IRIN that her group's one foreign and 15 local staff members had been unable to work for several days because of the security situation, which she described as bad and frustrating. "I hope that the situation can be resolved soon and we can start working."

However, she said her agency was hoping to get a convoy of three trucks through to Baghdad hospitals from Amman on Thursday night, carrying sheets, pillows, pillowcases, blankets, surgical masks and wheelchairs."

Meanwhile, the UN World Health Organisation (WHO) said the situation in Iraqi hospitals was critical. Its spokeswoman, Fadela Chaib, told IRIN from Amman there was an urgent need for surgical items, and such things as antibiotics and painkillers.

While WHO had some supplies in Baghdad, it was unclear whether its warehouse had been looted or not, and what the approximately 100 Iraqi WHO staff in Baghdad were able to do. "We think they are in their houses preventing looters," Chaib said. By Friday, 50 surgical kits, each containing equipment for 100 operations and postoperative care, would have arrived in Amman and be ready to go to Baghdad when it was possible, she added.

"Of course, we are frustrated, because we know the needs are there. We are sure the number of injured is very big, we know that some medicines are urgently needed. We are just waiting for the green light to go in. I think it could be a matter of days perhaps," Chaib said. She reminded all sides in the conflict that they should assist health workers in doing their jobs, pointing out that as well as access, funding was a critical problem.

A UN appeal for US $328 million for Iraq's health needs launched almost two weeks ago had recently received only $12 million.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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