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UN Food Agency Hopes to Begin Deliveries in Iraq Soon - 2003-04-15

Officials of the World Food Program say some areas of Iraq are becoming safer and they hope to be able to start aid deliveries soon. But other United Nations agencies continue to voice concern about conditions in Iraq, particularly in and around Baghdad.

The World Food Program says improvements in the security situation in some places, such as Basra in southern Iraq, are permitting it to locate Iraqis who had helped distribute food aid under the U.N. oil-for-food program.

Agency spokeswoman Christiane Bertiaume says these distribution agents will play a key role once the United Nations says it is safe to resume wide-scale aid distribution, which the agency hopes to do as soon as possible. "Security is improving," she said. "We have been accompanying those security teams and we are really hoping to go back really, really quickly."

The World Food Program says it has hundreds of thousands of tons of food aid ready to go into Iraq.

Another U.N. organization, the children's agency UNICEF, reports it has sent a convoy of trucks bringing water from Iran to the Faw peninsula in southern Iraq.

But the International Committee of the Red Cross says getting proper medical treatment in Iraq, particularly in Baghdad, remains a problem because of sporadic fighting and looting, as well as well as insufficient supplies of electricity and water.

Red Cross officials say of the 33 hospitals in Baghdad, only three are functioning.

An official of the World Health Organization, Iain Simpson, says Iraq's doctors and nurses are trying to restore the country's medical system despite all the obstacles confronting them. "There are many, many dedicated medical workers in Iraq that are really trying to keep the system going," said Mr. Simpson. "They are trying to protect their hospitals, they are trying to protect their supplies, they are trying to protect their patients as well."

Mr. Simpson says in some hospitals the medical staff was able to protect their facilities from looters, and he says these places could be functioning again very soon. However, he adds that those hospitals that were unprotected will take much longer to recover.