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ordered the withdrawal of all UN personnel from Iraq.

The Secretary-General noted that he had had talks with the five permanent Council members on the matter and was confident they will find a solution. “They are concerned about the Iraqi civilian population,” he said. “They would want to do everything to help them. And they know that the effort is geared at that and they want to put the needs of the people at the centre of all that we do at this stage. So I have no doubt that the Council will come to a satisfactory conclusion on the Oil-for-Food programme.”

Asked about the treatment of prisoners of war, Mr. Annan said: “I think it is important that all parties to the conflict respect the Geneva Convention. POWs should be treated fairly, humanely. They should not be humiliated, nor should they be made objects of public exhibition.”

The UN agency heads who met with Mr. Annan included Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP); James T. Morris, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP); Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Ruud Lubbers, High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Also taking part in the meeting were Kenzo Oshima, Emergency Relief Coordinator and Head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and Benon Sevan, Executive Director of the Office of the Iraq Programme (OIP), which oversees the Oil-for-Food programme.

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Iraq: humanitarian

26 March – United Nations humanitarian organizations expressed deep concern today over reports that an air strike on Baghdad resulted in heavy casualties at a civilian market.

“The civilian population of Iraq has no part in this conflict and must be protected from its consequences at all costs,” Ramiro Lopes da Silva, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq (UNOHCI), said in a statement issued at a briefing in Amman, Jordan. “Attacks on civilian installations are a serious breach of humanitarian international law.”

Mr. Lopes da Silva’s Office said the emergency room at Abougreb hospital in Baghdad was full, and Premiere Urgence, a French non-governmental organization (NGO) with 60 staff in the city, was extending it by erecting tents for overflow patients. It added that evaluations of Baghdad hospitals by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had been slowed down due to heavy bombardments.

Joining in the concern, the World Health Organization (WHO) said civilian injuries inevitably increased the pressure on already-stretched hospitals and other health infrastructure.

WHO also expressed continuing concern over Iraq’s second city of Basra, where at least half the civilian population of 1.7 million still lacked access to safe, clean drinking water. Many were also without electricity.

“In these circumstances, it is hard to keep food safe and to maintain hygiene,” WHO spokesperson Fadela Chiab said. “Levels of disease – especially among children – will be rising daily. The public health staff who work in WHO are increasingly concerned. Dysentery and typhoid are serious risks, and they will have a serious impact. We have seen such outbreaks in this area in the recent past and are concerned that this situation could worsen rapidly.”

She added the WHO team in Baghdad was currently prevented by the security situation from travelling but that as soon as the situation permitted it would move to Basra to assist the local health authorities. WHO teams in neighbouring countries were also ready to assist in responding to any outbreaks of infectious disease.

Declaring that Basra continued to be a major concern, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said a team in Kuwait was planning a road tanker operation with up to 40 vehicles. Fifty-five bladders with a capacity of 5,000 litres have been flown to Kuwait for use in the city and neighbouring areas.

Supplies of drugs for the treatment of up to a 1,000 cases of Blackwater fever had also arrived in Kuwait, UNICEF spokesman Geoffrey Keele added. An outbreak at the beginning of the month claimed more than 75 lives.

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