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Cambodia: Hospitals short of medical supplies

09-07-1997 News Release 97/26

Following the clashes that broke out in Cambodia on Saturday 5 July, a number of hospitals, particularly in Phnom Penh, have almost run out of medicines and other medical supplies. The situation remains uncertain in the areas of Battambang and Siem Reap, with tension running high and security conditions still hazardous along the main access routes. While some diplomatic representations in the Cambodian capital are trying to arrange for the evacuation of their nationals, the ICRC is pursuing its efforts to deliver the necessary supplies to hospitals, to transfer the wounded and to ensure the protection of detainees.

Since the beginning of the events, the ICRC delegation in Phnom Penh has remained in constant radio contact with the teams deployed by the various National Red Cross Societies working in the capital (in particular the American, Australian, French and Japanese Red Cross Societies), and is doing its utmost to meet the most pressing humanitarian needs. On Sunday 6  July a convoy delivered medicines and other medical supplies to the city's main hospitals with surgical facilities. Other convoys evacuated Cambodian and foreign civilians trapped in the Tuol Kork neighbourhood near the airport, where heavy fighting was taking place, to the city centre. People wounded in the clashes were transferred from the Kossamak hospital, which had been hit by shells, to the Calmette and Sihanouk hospitals. A survey conducted on 7  July in these three hospitals showed that their medical stocks had almost completely run out; 98 war-wounded - nine of whom have since died - had been admitted since the fighting broke out. The Calmette hospital, which saw a particularly large influx of casualties, is in urgent need of antibiotics, a ntitetanic serum, surgical kits, sutures, surgical gloves and dressing materials.

On Tuesday 8 July the ICRC requested access to persons detained in Phnom Penh, and made the rounds of the PJ, T3 and Tuol Sleg prisons.

In Battambang, the prison came under mortar fire on 7 July and four detainees were wounded. ICRC delegates, working with staff of Médecins sans Frontières , organized first aid and transferred two of the wounded to the local military hospital. The ICRC also provided food for the detainees held in Sisophon, who had been left to fend for themselves.

The ICRC has been working in Cambodia since 1979. Its tasks include visiting detainees, restoring family links and promoting awareness of international humanitarian law. The ICRC also runs an artificial limb-fitting centre in Battambang, and a factory for manufacturing prosthetic components and a blood bank in Phnom Penh.

The ICRC delegation in the Cambodian capital and its sub-delegation in Battambang are staffed by 16 expatriates, including a representative of the Japanese Red Cross, and 150 Cambodian personnel. On Sunday 6 July, part of the staff not involved in operational activities were transferred to Thailand.