Iraq is grappling with a "deadly serious" shortage of drugs and other medical supplies as the result of U.N. sanctions against the Baghdad government, the health minister said Saturday.
Minister Abdul-Salam Mohammed Sa'eed also said the country is also running out of milk for babies, and complained that many countries had refused to send supplies ordered before the embargo was imposed.The sanctions were approved as part of an international effort to force Iraq out of Kuwait after its Aug. 2 invasion. But they exempt "supplies intended strictly for medical purposes."
Sa'eed accused Turkey, Iraq's northern neighbor, of preventing large quantities of medicine and milk from reaching Iraq. He provided no details.
"It is deadly serious, and as the minister of health, I think it is not only inhumane but also criminal to deprive my people from medicine and other medical supplies," Sa'eed said at a Baghdad news conference.
He said Iraqis have been most affected by shortages of medicines with short shelf lives, plus vaccines and milk for infants. He cited a severe shortage of antibiotics and medicine for people with heart problems and diabetes.
The minister said some newborns receive only 3 pounds of food a month, compared with a minimum standard of 10 pounds. He said he feared some were already suffering ill effects.
"I'm really worried about our children. They might not be able to receive a sufficient amount of nutrition," he said.
He said polio posed a threat to children's health because of the lack of vaccines.
The health minister was also critical of the chairman of the U.N. committee that supervises that embargo for reporting that Iraq had medical supplies that could last 10 years.
The chairman, Marjatta Rasi of Finland, "should be better informed about the needs of newborn children, but I'm afraid that her statement was not only childish but irresponsible," Sa'eed said.