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Baghdad Hospital System Breaking Down, Humanitarian Agency Says

The group said in a statement, ”The ICRC is profoundly alarmed by the chaos currently prevailing in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq. Lawless persons, sometimes armed, have been ransacking and looting even essential public facilities such as hospitals.”

“The medical system in Baghdad has virtually collapsed,” the statement added.

The Swiss-based agency called on the U.S.-led coalition forces that control most of the capital to rapidly restore order, saying that it was their duty under the Geneva Conventions setting out the rules of war.

“In areas under their control, the coalition forces have specific responsibilities as occupying powers under international humanitarian law,” the agency said in the statement.

Earlier, spokeswoman Nada Doumani told Reuters that the International Committee of the Red Cross doubted that any hospitals were still working in the capital because of the anarchy on the streets.

Doumani quoted an agency official in the Iraqi capital as saying that “probably there are no more hospitals functioning because of looting, lack of medical personnel; people are scared.”

“It is anarchy,” she quoted the official as saying.

A team from the agency ventured onto the streets, but had not been able to visit all the city’s hospitals Friday, Doumani said.

However, they did go to the 650-bed Medical City where they found very few people. “Operating theaters are no longer functioning. There are no more instruments in any case,” Doumani said.

On Thursday the agency had reported that the Al Kindi hospital in central Baghdad was attacked by armed looters who had stripped it of everything, including beds, electrical fittings and medical equipment.

Doumani said that Al Kindi was empty Friday.

She said that there were risks of epidemics because the city was also without clean water and electricity.

President Bush promised Iraqis in a videotaped message Thursday that the United States and its war allies would help maintain law and order. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Thursday it would take time for the security situation in Baghdad to stabilize.

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