Aid agencies warn of worsening health conditions in Iraq

08 April 2003

As the endgame in Iraq approaches, UN aid agencies stepped up their warnings about the humanitarian consequences of the conflict.

Speaking at their daily press briefing in Amman on 7 April, agencies warned of increasing numbers of civilian casualties and undersupplied hospitals being overwhelmed.

“We have all seen some very disturbing pictures of child victims of this conflict,” said World Health Organisation spokesman Fadela Chaib. “And away from the cameras, these scenes are being repeated every day.”

He reported that hospitals were running short of medicines, anaesthetics and basic equipment, and expressed concern about the psychological impact on children of the conflict.

These worries were echoed by UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) spokeswoman Wivina Belmonte, who told reporters: “The pictures we see on our televisions show us the most immediate, most stark images of children hurt and injured in the conflict. What is more difficult to show, but which has its own devastating effect, is the lack of water, the poor and deteriorating health conditions, and the trauma each child is living.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross warned that hospitals in Baghdad were facing enormous pressures as the battle for the capital intensified, reporting that the influx at Al-Yarmouk hospital reached 100 an hour on 6 April.

Speaking in New York on the same day, World Food Programme director James Morris gave details of the agency’s Iraq plan. He told a press briefing that the first 30 days of the six-month, $1,300 million aid programme will focus on refugees and people displaced within Iraq, and will then be expanded to cover the entire population. He said that $110 million-worth of contracts already signed under the UN oil-for-food programme had been identified as being deliverable within the next 45 days, after which the adjusted resolution of 28 March expires.

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