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Baghdad running low on medicine

Dr. Abdul Hussain shows where he says a tank shell entered his office while he was inside the hospital near Basra.
Dr. Abdul Hussain shows where he says a tank shell entered his office while he was inside the hospital near Basra.

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CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports on medical situation in Baghdad. (April 8)
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GENEVA, Switzerland (Reuters) -- Aid agencies warned Tuesday that overwhelmed Baghdad hospitals were running low of life-saving medicines and that civilian casualties were mounting in Iraq's besieged capital.

"Nobody is checking every single hospital, nobody is adding up all the numbers ... (but) there clearly is a large volume of civilian casualties," World Health Organization spokesman Iain Simpson told a United Nations briefing.

"And there are starting to be reports of shortages, particularly of emergency supplies -- the kind of equipment that you need to do emergency surgery, the kind of equipment you need to look after burn injuries and injuries to heads," he added.

U.S. forces tightened their grip on Baghdad, blitzing targets in the heart of the capital and seizing nearby Rashid military airfield on the 20th day of the war.

"The hospitals have reached their limit. Iraqi medical and surgical personnel are working flat out 24 hours a day," International Committee of the Red Cross spokeswoman Nada Doumani told a news briefing.

The Red Cross delivered enough emergency supplies to treat 100 war-wounded at Medical City, a 650-bed hospital complex, Doumani said.

"They delivered surgical supplies, sutures, anesthetics, intravenous fluid, etc. Only six of the hospital's 27 operating theaters can be used," she told Reuters.

On Monday, the Swiss-based agency delivered similar supplies to Kindi hospital, near the city center, and distributed drinking water to three surgical hospitals. But heavy fighting has prevented its small team in Baghdad from moving about more.

The capital's main surgical hospitals and water treatment plants now rely solely on back-up generators because the normal power supply has been cut, an untenable situation, Doumani said.

In Saddam City, a poor area in northeast Baghdad, the flow of tap water has been cut by half, according to the Red Cross.

Asked whether the Red Cross had any concerns about possible disproportionate use of force by U.S.-led troops, causing heavy civilian casualties, she noted the Red Cross was in touch with authorities on both sides but was sticking to its strict rules of confidentiality.

"If there are violations of international humanitarian law, we will make our representations to the authorities. But you won't know about it," Doumani said.

Both the World Health Organization and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) expressed concern about reports of diarrheal diseases among children in southern Iraq being on the rise due to their drinking contaminated water.

The WHO, a United Nations agency, relies on its 330 national staff still in Iraq, as well as the Red Cross, for information.

"Supplies are running very low, particularly of emergency supplies. Nothing has crossed the border into Baghdad since the conflict began. Even where there were sufficient supplies, those supplies have been given out to hospitals and are being used up," Simpson said.

"We currently have a great deal of emergency supplies in Jordan. We are working very hard to find a way to get them across the border to Baghdad," he added.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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