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Ali arrives in Kuwait for special care

Baghdad, April 16 (Reuters): An Iraqi boy who became a symbol of civilian suffering in Iraq’s war after he lost his arms has been flown to Kuwait for specialist care. He needs major surgery but at least he has escaped Baghdad.

Ali Ismaeel Abbas leaves behind scores of wounded Iraqis at the mercy of the collapsing Iraqi heath system. Baghdad’s three main hospitals are shut and doctors warn that those still open will follow suit if order is not restored to the Iraqi capital.

Iraqi and foreign doctors said Baghdad’s Medical City, Yarmouk and al-Kindi hospitals were closed due to power cuts, a shortage of medicines and staff and fear of the looting that swept the city after Saddam Hussein’s rule collapsed last week.

They said the 33 hospitals in the city of five million people were in no state to cope with Iraq’s war-wounded or patients with chronic diseases and they had yet to receive significant medical assistance from outside the country.

“We are in very difficult situation with shortages of medicine, staff and equipment,” said Laith Sabih, a doctor at an orthopaedic and plastic surgery hospital in Baghdad.

He said the hospital had only one small generator which worked a few hours a day so operations could be carried out. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has promised a new generator. Without one, he said, the hospital would shut.

“There is a big shortage of power. I did surgery with a kerosene lamp,” said Jacques Beres, 61, a Belgian doctor with the French charity Aide Medicale Internationale, who said he had performed 50 operations since the war began on March 20.

Mobs have ransacked many of Baghdad’s hospitals and stolen medical supplies, prompting the ICRC to remind U.S.-led forces in Iraq of their responsibilities under international law as an occupying power to protect vital public services.

Some of the city’s main hospitals with the capability for more sophisticated treatment, among the best in West Asia before the war, were the worst hit by the looters. The ICRC said yesterday the situation in Baghdad appeared to be improving slowly as stability returned and said its national staff were starting to return to work for the first time in days.

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