War on Iraq: The Chaos: `They Came with Guns and Took Everything'; the Hospitals ; Kim Sengupta Reports from a Baghdad Hospital Where Armed Looters Stole Light Fittings, Stethoscopes and Even the Beds That the Patients Were Lying In

By Sengupta, Kim | The Independent on Sunday (London, England), April 13, 2003 | Go to article overview
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War on Iraq: The Chaos: `They Came with Guns and Took Everything'; the Hospitals ; Kim Sengupta Reports from a Baghdad Hospital Where Armed Looters Stole Light Fittings, Stethoscopes and Even the Beds That the Patients Were Lying In


Sengupta, Kim, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)


The al-Kindi hospital was deserted yesterday morning apart from a few members of the medical staff who had braved a visit after staying away for the last few days. They walked through the wards where the beds and stretchers had been ransacked by looters, and medicine cabinets stripped bare.

It was the same scene at most of the other hospitals and clinics throughout Baghdad. In another day of murderous violence, with US forces treating much of the city as a free-fire zone, and Iraqis settling scores among themselves, the casualties mounted as the medical resources continued to wither away.

The al-Kindi is the premier neurological hospital in the Iraqi capital, with 400 beds. In the days of remorseless American bombing and the subsequent ground advance it overflowed with the dead and the maimed.

As the US forces completed their capture of Baghdad, and peace and harmony was supposed to break out among the grateful locals, the anarchy began. While Marines stood by and watched, the mob descended, first on the offices and homes of the regime, then on shops and hotels, and then on the hospitals.

Medecins Sans Frontieres, the medical aid agency, had made donations of medicine and equipment to al-Kindi. All that has now gone. Standing in an operating theatre from where the beds, equipment and even the light fittings had been stripped, Ahmed Ali Hassan, 39, a laboratory technician, said: "They came with guns, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop them. There were a few leaders who directed the taking of the most expensive equipment, I think they were Shias, maybe from Saddam City. Then the ordinary people came and took the rest. I saw an old man walk away with three sets of stethoscopes."

Dr Ahmed Asafi, a 27-year-old paediatrician, had come in yesterday morning after hearing that the looters and gunmen had gone. "There is not a lot left to take," he said. "Patients from this hospital have been sent to other ones, and the less serious cases sent home with prescriptions. We are lacking almost every kind of medicine."

As he spoke, a US armoured vehicle rolled up outside, and three Marines came in. A centre had been set up at the Ministry of Oil building to co-ordinate relief efforts.

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War on Iraq: The Chaos: `They Came with Guns and Took Everything'; the Hospitals ; Kim Sengupta Reports from a Baghdad Hospital Where Armed Looters Stole Light Fittings, Stethoscopes and Even the Beds That the Patients Were Lying In
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