Sunday 6 April 2003
GENEVA - The number of casualties in Baghdad is so high that hospitals have stopped counting the number of people treated, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Sunday.
"No one is able to keep accurate statistics of the admitted and transferred war wounded any longer as one emergency arrival follows the other in the hospitals of Baghdad,'' the ICRC said in a statement.
"Ambulances are picking up the wounded and running them to the triage areas and on to hospitals,'' it said. "Some of the wounded try to reach the nearest hospitals by foot.''
The neutral Swiss-run organization - the main aid agency left in Iraq - gave no estimates on the number of deaths and did not confirm U.S. Central Command estimates that between 2,000 and 3,000 Iraqi fighters were killed in Saturday's foray into Baghdad by American armored vehicles.
"All of the hospitals are under pressure and the medical staff is working without respite,'' said the ICRC statement. "Despite the intense and desperate activity, hospital staff is still managing the situation.''
But it said that hospitals urgently needed more water supplies. Given the general power outage in Baghdad, most hospitals and water installations are now being powered by backup generators. It said it was getting many requests for service kits, spare parts and repairs for water plants.
The ICRC said that Red Cross delegates who reached the southern city of Basra reported that the medical situation was generally under control and that there were no signs of epidemics. But it said it feared the worst for other hospitals outside Baghdad and Basra.
Hospitals Cut Off From Medical Resupply
By Charles J. Hanley
Sunday 6 April 2003
AMMAN, Jordan -- In town after town in the Iraq war zone, hospitals trying to cope with hundreds of wounded are cut off from medical resupply, aid officials reported Sunday. An aid convoy destined for one overwhelmed hospital south of Baghdad was canceled because of U.S. military operations.
In Baghdad, "all hospitals are under tremendous pressure and the medical staffs are working without respite," said Muin Kassis of the International Committee of the Red Cross office in Amman, which is in sporadic telephone contact with ICRC staff in the Iraqi capital.
At one point Saturday, during a bloody U.S. Army foray into southern Baghdad, the al-Yarmouk hospital, near the fighting, was receiving Iraqi wounded at a rate of about 100 an hour, the ICRC said. Such Red Cross estimates don't break down civilian versus military casualties.
"No one is able to keep an accurate count of casualties," Kassis said Sunday. But Iraqi officials were reported to have put their latest count at 1,252 civilians killed and 5,103 wounded in more than two weeks of war. Such figures cannot be independently confirmed.
Some 300 of those casualties -- mostly women and children, U.N. officials said -- were reported to have poured into the hospital in Hillah, 55 miles south of Baghdad, on one day last week.
An ICRC convoy carrying badly needed medical supplies for the Hillah hospital had to be canceled, David Wimhurst of the U.N. office for Iraq said in the Jordanian capital.
"The access roads are no longer open," he said. "The ICRC can't get through."
An important bridge on the southern road had been destroyed, Wimhurst said, and alternate routes were unsafe because of military operations.
He said the ICRC teams similarly could no longer reach hospitals in Karbala, Najaf and Nasiriyah -- other cities stretching south from Baghdad that have been under U.S. attack.
The medical stocks in Nasiriyah were destroyed during U.S. bombing of the city, 200 miles southeast of Baghdad, the U.N. office reported. The U.S. military had said Iraqi defenders turned a Nasiriyah hospital into a military site.
The World Health Organization said Sunday it expects the broader Iraqi health situation to deteriorate sharply in the coming days, especially for the chronically ill.
"The health workers are overwhelmed by injured and routine work is disrupted," said the WHO's Fadela Chaib in Amman. Citing 600,000 Iraqi diabetics as an example, she said people undergoing long-term care or needing admission to a hospital will be denied treatment in embattled regions of the country.
She said the WHO also fears epidemics may soon break out because water and sanitation systems have shut down as electrical power has been cut off under bombardment.
In Baghdad, which was under continuous U.S. bombing and was steadily being encircled by American ground troops, backup power supplies at hospitals are uncertain, the ICRC's Kassis said.
"We're not sure how long their generators will hold up," he said.
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