27 April 2003: What UNICEF said at the UN briefing
We must accept the very real possibility that the true number of children suffering from diarrhoeal illness is much higher than the number reaching hospital.
Briefing by Simon Ingram, UNICEF Communication Officer, IRAQ
UNICEF staff in Baghdad have today reported a serious outbreak of diarrhoeal illness at a hospital in one of the city’s poorest suburbs. At al-Noor hospital, 300 cases of diarrhoea were admitted in the space of three hours – many of them children.
Our staff say that because of the lack of security on the streets of the city, and because of the inflated cost of transport, many of the sick are not being brought to hospital until they are severely dehydrated. In some instances, we know for a fact that the resort to medical help comes too late, and victims are dying alone at home. We must accept the very real possibility that the true number of children suffering from diarrhoeal illness is much higher than the number reaching hospital.
If – as reports suggest – the outbreak at the al-Noor hospital is being replicated in other parts of Baghdad and beyond, it only underscores the crucial importance of ensuring that safe water supplies reach the Iraqi population fast.
By and large this is not happening. Indeed, as I mentioned in my briefing note last Thursday, we are faced with the very real possibility that in the south of the country at least, water treatment plants will very soon run out of supplies of the chemicals needed to make raw water supplies safe to drink. Unless urgent steps are taken to rectify this, a dramatic escalation in the incidence of diarrhoeal disease may be unavoidable.
On a more positive note, I can confirm that seven UNICEF trucks carrying some 60,000 litres of drinking water crossed from Iran heading to the Al-Fao peninsula today. This is the second UNICEF water convoy from Iran, and the relative ease with which it crossed suggests that our efforts at turning Iran into a substantial corridor of aid for Iraq are starting to bear fruit.
Finally, I have an update for you on the ongoing efforts to locate
the children missing from the al-Rahma Centre for Street Children. I
wish I could say the news was reassuring, but it isn’t. The man
now in charge of the centre told UNICEF today that he’d managed
to find three of the missing girls, and four of the boys. But none of
them have agreed to return to the centre. Their reluctance is understandable,
given the traumatic circumstances in which they had to flee, and the
appalling condition that the centre has been left in by the gang who
looted it. Meanwhile, the fate of the other 19 girls missing from al-Rahma
Geoffrey Keele, UNICEF Iraq:
For interviews in the region, write or call directly to the UNICEF NewsDesk in Amman: