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Iraq in Increasing Need of Medical Resources, says WHO - 2003-04-08


The World Health Organization says medical resources in Iraq are fast dwindling, particularly in Baghdad.

The World Health Organization said it is concerned that hospitals in Baghdad are running out of medical supplies, especially those used to treat emergency cases. Agency spokesman Ian Simpson said the high volume of civilian casualties in the Iraqi capital is responsible for the shortage.

"There are starting to be reports of shortages among, particularly, emergency supplies," he said. "So the kind of equipment that you need to do emergency surgery, the kind of equipment that you need to look after burn injuries, to look after injuries to heads. And we are starting to see shrapnel injuries, spinal cord injuries, and so on."

Mr. Simpson said that before the war started there were enough medical supplies in Baghdad to last several weeks under normal circumstances. He said the World Health Organization is not sure how many civilians have been injured during coalition air strikes and in fighting between U.S. and Iraqi troops.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it has visited a number of hospitals in Baghdad, but its staff cannot reach all the capital's medical facilities.

It reports that Baghdad's hospitals are full, with doctors working around the clock. The Red Cross said there are shortages of anesthetics in the hospitals. It also said it began delivering surgical instruments earlier this week.

Mr. Simpson said the WHO hopes to bring emergency medical supplies into Iraq as soon as the security situation permits. "We currently have a great deal of emergency supplies in Jordan, and we are working very hard to find a way to get them across the border to Baghdad. It is not yet happening, but we are working very hard to do it," he said.

Both agencies say electricity cuts and water shortages are also affecting Baghdad's hospitals.