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Briefing note

17 April 2003: What UNICEF said at the UN briefing

Hospitals are crying out for water. UNICEF staff on the ground are contracting water tankers to begin hauling clean water to the hospitals with the greatest needs.

Briefing by Geoff Keele, UNICEF Communication Officer, IRAQ


Read Carol Bellamy's 20 March statement

9 April press release

12 June UNICEF repairing sewers, collecting garbage for the well-being of Iraqi children
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2 May War is over, but the battle to protect Iraq’s children is far from won

1 May What UNICEF said at the UN Briefing in Amman
1 May News flash: Top UNICEF official returns to Iraq

UNICEF Iran convoys food, supplies to Baghdad 30 April

With chlorine supplies dwindling, Iraqi children face onslaught of water-borne diseases 29 Apri l

28 April What UNICEF said at the UN Briefing in Amman
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22 April 2003 What UNICEF said at the UN Briefing in Amman
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22 April 2003 What UNICEF said at the UN Briefing in Amman
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• Access more information about the children of Iraq at UNICEF's online Iraq Press Room

• UNICEF's professional photos are available to qualified publications. Write photo@unicef.org

Good Afternoon

I have spoken with UNICEF staff in Baghdad today, and the situation in the capital is, as Hatim George our head of office said, "Horrible."

All civic services have essentially ceased to exist. There is no garbage collection, and this means that refuse is piling up all over the city further adding to the risks of disease. Even at hospitals, there is no one to collect the refuse, and stacks of bio-waste are piling up outside hospitals, including in some cases bloody bandages and limbs from amputations.

UNICEF is now looking into ways to contract trucks and driver to begin collecting refuse in the worst hit areas.

In one hospital, the Saddam Paediatric Hospital on the western side of the Tigris, there have been so many deaths that the hospital staff are having to bury the dead in the hospital's garden. They have no way of getting all the bodies to a graveyard.

Hospitals are crying out for water. UNICEF staff on the ground are contracting water tankers to begin hauling clean water to the hospitals with the greatest needs.

Our staff in Baghdad have been carrying out emergency assessments of health centres and water treatment plants. The greatest need of hospitals right now, besides power and clean water is liquid oxygen. Without this, operations cannot be conducted at all. Two hospitals, the Shaheed Adnan and the Al-Mansour children's hospital currently have only a one day supply of liquid oxygen left.

The hospitals are also in dire need of ventilators for intensive care units, intravenous fluids, injectable antibiotics, and anesthetics. UNICEF has a supply of anesthetics in Jordan and will be sending them to Baghdad in a refrigerated truck within days. In some children's hospitals, 70% of patients are suffering from diarrhea.

UNICEF staff in Baghdad were able to deliver an emergency health kit to one of these hospitals today, which should provide services for up to 10,000 patients. Unfortunately, we had a total of 30 health kits to provide, but most were looted, or as Hatim said "they were all cannibalized. We are having to sort through what is left and repackage the remains for the hospitals."

In other hospitals, the quarantine wards were not functioning and patients with communicable diseases, such as meningitis, were being lumped in with other patients, who are already weakened and more susceptible to disease.

As I am sure you can tell from this report, the situation in Baghdad right now is indeed "horrible." However, our staff were also able to provide some information to give us hope.

Prior to the outbreak of war, UNICEF had contracted teams of mobile units to ensure that generators at water treatment plants were repaired and maintained to ensure that some water was able to reach the people even if the main power grid failed.

Three of these teams worked throughout the bombing, fighting, looting and chaos. They traveled across the city repairing and maintaining generators, and even assisted some hospitals with their generators to make sure that at least a limited amount of power was available for the city's vital infrastructure. We applaud their courage and dedication.

Also, our staff were able to go back to many of the children's institutions we had provided emergency supplies to. One centre had been very scared for their safety during the looting, and when our staff arrived, the children and their carers had strung a white sheet out in front of the centre saying "We are an orphanage. Please do not kill us."

However, I am happy to report that all the children in the centres we visited today are safe and healthy. The only thing they requested was fresh vegetables. UNICEF staff will bring them vegetables tomorrow.

Today, water tankers from Kuwait carrying 400,000 litres of water went Basrah. Other tankers went to Az Zubair and Umm Qasr.

Yesterday I mentioned the outbreak of Black Fever in the south, and how a German TV crew managed to deliver the medicine for the fever to Nasiriya. The day before they arrived, a mother had taken her child who was affected by Black Fever to the hospital. The Doctor had told her that he could not treat this disease without the appropriate medicine.

Yesterday, she came back again as her child was getting weaker. The Doctor, who had received the medicine from the RTL TV crew, was able to give the child the required treatment to save him. Now, doctors working in the hospital are using megaphones to call the people affected by Black Fever.

For further information please contact us:.

Geoffrey Keele, UNICEF Iraq: gkeele@unicef.org
(962-6) 551-5921 ext. 126,
Cell +962-79) 692-6191
Anis Salem, UNICEF Amman: asalem@unicef.org
(+962-6) 553-9977 ext. 407
(Cell + 962 79 557 9991
Wivina Belmonte, UNICEF Amman: wbelmonte@unicef.org,
(Cell + 962 79 504 2058
Gordon Weiss, UNICEF New York, aironside@unicef.org
(+1-212) 326-7261

For interviews in the region, write or call directly to the UNICEF NewsDesk in Amman:

(962-79) 50422058

UNICEF has video footage from inside Iraq, topics include health, nutrition, education, and access to water and relief supplies being packed at UNICEF's global warehouse . For a Beta copy of the b-roll, along with shot descriptions.