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DATE=7/27/1999 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=RED CROSS / IRAQ (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-252210 BYLINE=LISA SCHLEIN DATELINE=GENEVA CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: The International Committee of the Red Cross - I-C-R-C - says the civilian population of Iraq is continuing to suffer an alarming deterioration of its living conditions as the country enters the 10th year under the United Nations' embargo. Lisa Schlein in Geneva reports that the Red Cross says it plans to step up its humanitarian programs in the country because of the problems. TEXT: The Red Cross says U-N sanctions have taken a heavy toll on the health and well-being of the people of Iraq, and has put severe strains on the country's social fabric. Nevertheless, the Red Cross stops short of calling for an end of the embargo. The organization explains that it is a neutral body and the embargo is a matter for politicians to settle, not for a humanitarian agency. Michel Minnig headed a Red Cross mission that has just returned from Iraq. He says the alarming condition in which the Iraqi people are living is being aggravated by the effects of severe drought, the worst to hit the region since 1932. Mr. Minnig says this will have serious consequences on agriculture and on supplies of drinking water. He says U-N sanctions have caused severe damage to much of Iraq's basic services. He says the country's health, water, electricity and communications systems are in a dire state. ///MINNIG ACT/// When we are talking about what's going on in the hospitals, (is) that the beds are in very bad condition, that X-ray machines are not working. The roof is collapsing. This is something we have seen. When you live in Baghdad, you have about 10 hours (of electric) power cut a day. So this is something very effective when you are living in this country. The whole infrastructure, in terms of industry, is not existing anymore. ///END ACT/// Mr. Minnig says people living in cities are under constant and terrible stress. The Iraqi people, he says, practically have no hope left that the conflict with the United Nations will end. He says an estimated one-thousand-600 people are still missing from Iraq's last two wars, the Iran-Iraq border war, which lasted eight years, and the 1990 Gulf War. He adds the Red Cross is doing what it can to trace the missing people. In response to the growing crisis in Iraq, the Red Cross is stepping up its activities there. Among its projects, the Agency plans to repair 12 of the country's main hospitals and 18 primary health centers. It also plans to provide surgical equipment to many of the country's hospitals and improve water treatment plants. (Signed) NEB/LS/GE/KL 27-Jul-1999 13:50 PM LOC (27-Jul-1999 1750 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .