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Red Cross Calls on Coalition Troops to Restore Order in Iraq - 2003-04-11

The International Committee of the Red Cross says looting and chaos in the Iraqi capital are creating serious problems at hospitals in the city, and some small facilities have been forced to shut down. International Committee of the Red Cross spokeswoman Nada Doumani said the agency's staff in Baghdad reports that some hospitals have been unable to provide medical care because of the anarchy.

"No hospital is any more functioning properly, normally in the capital," she said. "We have even heard about hospitals which have closed down. They have just shut the doors. Looting is going on in the city, armed men are in the streets. It is a very volatile, very dangerous situation. Our big concern is that people who really need medical care cannot get it anymore."

The Geneva-based agency earlier reported that armed men looted several medical facilities, including Baghdad's Al-Kindi hospital, carrying away beds, electrical fittings and medical equipment.

The World Health Organization says its staff in Iraq reports that, in many cases, medical personnel cannot even get to the hospitals. Agency spokeswoman Christine McNab said many of the doctors and nurses are not going to work because they fear for their own safety.

"Hospital staff are also reported to be reluctant to leave their homes to travel to work due to the insecurity in the cities," said Ms. McNab. "We have heard this from Baghdad. We have heard this from other cities as well, throughout southern Iraq."

The Red Cross adds that looting in southern the Iraqi city of Basra has damaged water pipes it recently installed to bring clean drinking water to the population.

The Red Cross and U.N. agencies are calling on U.S. and British forces to restore security in order for medical work to continue.