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Children With Disabilities Caught In Middle Of Iraq Conflict
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 25, 2003

BAGHDAD, IRAQ--While U.S. and Allied forces bomb government buildings and other installations in the Iraqi capital, hundreds of children with disabilities are facing the war from inside several nearby institutions, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

International relief organizations are working to deliver food from local reserves and from nearby Jordan to the facilities which house 900 children with cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and other disabilities. In the past few days, Iraqi UNICEF workers have managed to deliver tinned meat, wheat, rice, milk, and high-protein biscuits to the six institutions, four of which are in central Baghdad, the other two of which are in Karbala to the south.

When the bombing started last week, some of the children were sent to stay with family members until the end of the conflict. Most of those who remain are either orphans or children who had been abandoned by their parents.

Geoff Keele, a U.N. Children's Fund spokesman, told the AP that two UNICEF staff members visited the institutions over the weekend.

"The children could hear the explosions from their rooms," said Baghdad aid worker Hatim George, of the nightly and now daily bombing raids.

None of the facilities had been damaged, nor had the children been directly injured. George explained he was worried, however, about the psychological harm the children are suffering.

"Some of the children appear to have been traumatized by the sounds of bombing going on outside," said George.

"You can see fear in their faces."

Institutional staff members, who are staying at the homes 24 hours a day, told George they are worried that they will not be able to maintain adequate child-care standards much longer if the raids continue.

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