Baghdad hospitals on the brink of crisis

Baghdad hospitals reported a continuous flow of war-wounded victims on Sunday, warning their meagre resources were being stretched to the limit as fighting grew more intense.


“It’s certainly an emergency situation,” said Antonella Notari, chief spokesman of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Latest reports from ICRC staff in Baghdad said fighting in and around the capital continued unabated on Sunday.


The ICRC is one of the few international aid operations not to have withdrawn their staff from Iraq in the run-up to the US-led war.


Hospitals in Baghdad reported a steady stream of hundreds of  patients. ICRC staff in the capital said that during the more fierce bombardments, hospitals were receiving up to 100 casualties per hour.


The international aid organisation said while hospitals were stretched, they were handling the situation sufficiently and as professionally as war would allow. ICRC staff were touring hospitals and providing first aid and surgery kits, including 150 blankets and 50 body bags to Al-Yarmouk hospital.


“The situation overall is extremely problematic now in terms of clean water supply and sewage evacuation. Everybody now is operating on back-up generators as there is hardly any power any more,” said Notari.


In the rest of the country, the ICRC continued distributing medical supplies in the southern city of Basra, where fierce fighting has continued for days. The international group is also trucking water to the three main hospitals in the neighbouring war-torn district of Al-Zubayr.


At the Kindi hospital staff were reported to have been overwhelmed by the sharp rise in casualties since US ground troops thrust north towards Baghdad and intensified their air attacks.


Victims were carried in on sheets after stretchers ran out. With many staff unable to reach the hospitals due to bombing, doctors worked furiously as they performed operations, taking blood, giving injections and ferrying the wounded.


Dr. Osama Saleh al-Duleimi, an orthopaedic surgeon and assistant director at Kindi, said they were overloaded and suffering from shortages of anaesthetics, painkillers and staff.


Doctors were also reportedly overwhelmed by the injuries they are seeing, including massive trauma and fatal wounds such as head, abdominal and limb injuries from lethal weapons.


“I’ve been a doctor for 25 years and this is the worst I’ve seen in terms of casualties and fatal wounds,” said al-Duleimi, who also practised during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war and the 1991 Gulf War.


“We are receiving a lot of civilian casualties,” he added.


Dr. Sadek al-Mukhtar described this war as more destructive than the 1991 Gulf War. “In the previous battles, the weapons seemed merely disabling; now they’re much more lethal,” he said.




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