- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 17, 2003

Chaos and disorder in Iraq continues to be a major concern for international relief agencies, despite some encouraging signs of stabilization, aid workers said yesterday.

"Our staff there says that the situation is chaotic and not secure. In fact, we will not be sending any additional staff because of insecurity," said Ahuma Adodoadji, emergency response director at CARE, a private humanitarian organization that assists hospitals and distributes water in Baghdad.

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) is concerned with looting at the Central Public Health Laboratory in Baghdad, where incubators containing polio virus cultures have been stolen.

"This is very unlikely to cause disease, but is a serious concern because these cultures are vital for research and public health work," WHO spokeswoman Melanie Zipperer told reporters yesterday.

Security has improved somewhat in Baghdad, though by no means definitively, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in its latest report.

"Police cars can now be seen patrolling the streets, and many ICRC national staff have been able to return to work for the first time in days," ICRC said.

Hospitals in Baghdad are reported to be functioning to some extent, including the Medical City complex where international relief organizations continue assisting the local staff in treatment of the injured and wounded.

In southern Iraq, there has been an outbreak of blackwater fever, a waterborne disease also know as Laeshmaniasis. According to UNICEF, up to 100 cases in Amarah, 70 cases in Nasiriyah and an unspecified number of cases in Zubayr have been registered.

Blackwater fever can be fatal, and children under 5 are the most vulnerable to contracting it. "These are areas we still do not have access to, and 90 percent of cases could die without medicine," said UNICEF spokesman Geoffrey Keele.

UNICEF has 1,000 doses of the medicine to fight the disease and was able to send 100 vials of it to Nasiriyah on Tuesday.

At the Iraqi-Jordanian border, officials are still denying entry into Jordan to more than 200 people stranded in a no man's land, United Nations High Commission for Refugees spokesman Peter Kessler told reporters in Jordan.

The situation is expected to improve after UNHCR's representative in Jordan, Stan Bronee, signed a letter of understanding with Jordan's Minister of Interior Qaftan Majali concerning the provision of international protection and humanitarian assistance to people in need.

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