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UN health agency concerned over looting of Iraq's hospitals

UN health agency concerned over looting of Iraq's hospitals

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) has voiced concern over the looting of key hospitals in Baghdad, where many patients who were forced to flee have not yet returned.

In a new assessment based on detailed information about the evolving status of Iraq's health system, WHO reported that the 700-bed Yarmouk hospital has been partially looted, and only about 10 per cent of the staff are still working there.

The Ibn Al Nafis Vascular and Cardiac hospital, with 170 beds, is one of the few that is still functional, according to WHO. Surgeons from other hospitals that were damaged or looted are lending a hand at Ibn Al Nafis. Although the facility seems to be secure, hygiene there is reported to be very poor.

WHO also raised concern about the fate of patients who fled the Al Rashid hospital, which was reported to have been burned and looted. Some 700 patients who left have not returned.

"These people, with injuries, infections and other trauma, are extremely vulnerable, and in need of medical assistance," the agency warned. "This situation tragically underscores the need and obligation for the occupying forces to ensure civil order and security, including the security for hospitals and other medical facilities."

On a positive note, WHO found the Ibn Al Hithem Ophthalmology Teaching Hospital, with 400 beds, to be in "good shape," having been spared the looting.

WHO also found that 50 to 70 per cent of health services are functional in Mosul, where looting has not been as severe as in other centres. "There are many people in need of health care, however, including many casualties from the conflict," the agency warned, urging funding for health services throughout Iraq.

The assessment was carried out as part of WHO's effort to appropriately tailor its assistance to Iraq. The agency will use the new information to kick start health services in communities around the country.