Charity Seeks Compensation
Over "Lost" Cancer Drugs
For Iraqi Children
By Robert Fisk
01 January, 2004
charity for Iraqi children is demanding that the Government repay almost
£100,000 to its donors after nearly half its shipment of medicines
including vital cancer drugs was lost by the British Army
after the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq.
by the British military commander in Basra that the medical supplies,
valued at £201,410.98, would be safely delivered to five paediatric
hospitals, Medical Aid for Iraqi Children (MAIC), a registered charity,
says doctors at Iraqi hospitals found almost 50 per cent of the value
of its supplies had gone "missing". In a statement the charity
said it was "seeking compensation of £98,784.49 the
value of the medical supplies lost".
especially cancer patients, went without treatment," the charity
said. "It is very probable that many other children who could have
been saved lost their lives due to the lengthy delay and significant
loss of medical supplies."
authorities have been unable to account for the disappearance of the
supplies and their correspondence with the charity, which begins with
assurances that the medicines would be safely delivered, slowly retreats
from these promises and then complains about the "disappointing"
tone of MAIC's complaints about their failure to account for the missing
medicine. A subsequent letter from Baroness Amos, when she was Secretary
of State for International Development, states wrongly that
there was "some uncertainty" about the Baghdad hospitals which
were to receive the medicines, adding that British troops had "a
lot of competing priorities" to manage.
May Daftari, of
MAIC, has expressed her outrage to both the Army and the Government.
"We are most concerned about this significant loss of medical supplies,
especially at a time when war injuries were rife and need for medicines
were paramount," she said.
who are dependent on our regular supplies of anti-cancer drugs were
deprived of vital treatment."
of supplies, including cancer drugs for children, surgical items, baby
milk, crutches and wheelchairs, were sent to Iraq on 1 May, less than
three weeks after American troops entered Baghdad, on board Sir Richard
Branson's much-publicised Virgin humanitarian flight to the southern
city of Basra.
that Ms Daftari sent details of the hospitals in Baghdad the Mansur
Teaching Hospital, the Central Paediatric Teaching Hospital and the
Qadisiyah Hospital, as well as the Children's Hospital in Karbala and
the Paediatric Hospital in Basra to Virgin on 30 April, when Sir
Richard Branson praised MAIC's "generosity and quick response"
to the emergency in Iraq.
Two days later,
Colonel John Graham, of the medical branch of the 1st Armoured Division,
thanked MAIC for its "generous donation of medical aid" which
was received at Basra airport on the Branson flight. "You will
be pleased to hear that we were able to arrange immediate safe storage
of the medicines and equipment," he wrote. "They will be moved
very shortly to the intended recipients." By 19 May, Ms Daftari
had become worried. One of the doctors in Baghdad waiting for the medicine
had learnt that at least two of the deliveries had not arrived. "As
a British charity," she wrote to Colonel Graham, "we also
need hospital receipts to assure our donors in the UK". That same
day, Colonel Graham e-mailed MAIC to say the "kit" for Baghdad
was still in Basra but it would be moved to the capital on the next
C-130 transport aircraft.
Ms Daftari replied
on 28 May that the MAIC board felt "great concern" that cancer
drugs valued at £95,123 could be damaged by heat. She repeated
the names of the five hospitals expecting the supplies.
Colonel Graham replied
more than two weeks later that the heat-sensitive drugs had been stored
at the medical warehouse in Basra but that the medicines for Baghdad
had been flown to the capital "between 24 and 31 May", to
be distributed by "Korean Food for the Hungry".
By 23 June, Ms Daftari
was faxing Colonel Graham to say that, despite his assurances, the medical
supplies had still not been supplied to the Baghdad hospitals. On 10
July, she wrote again to Colonel Graham to say 30 per cent of the supplies
in the list of medicines were missing when delivered to one Baghdad
hospital. "You kindly assured us ... that our supplies ... would
be delivered to the pre-assigned hospitals," she wrote. "We
had full trust in the British Forces that they would arrange the safe
distribution of all our supplies. Unfortunately ... we have not received
... hospital receipts for the delivery of our supplies which I have
requested several times in my faxes to you."
A reply came three
days later from a Colonel E B Carmichael his address was "Headquarters
Multinational Division (South East), Operation TELIC II"
saying Colonel Graham had left Iraq, but claiming that "at the
very outset no undertaking was given that medical supplies could readily
be moved to Baghdad at that moment in time ... My predecessors did not
receive any receipts that I am aware of and I am not optimistic that
I will ... to expect these medical supplies could be delivered with
a clear audit trail [sic] in an insecure and challenging environment
where looting was occurring is simply unrealistic."
This is the first
reference in British documents to the looting that British troops permitted
in Basra after their occupation of the city. Ms Daftari had made no
mention of this. But Colonel Carmichael had not finished. "Could
I point out," he wrote, "that I find the tone of your recent
fax and the implied criticism disappointing to say the least ..."
A letter from the
Department for International Development on 9 July claimed there was
"some uncertainty about which four [sic] hospitals" the supplies
were intended for, adding that British forces in Basra had "a lot
of competing priorities to manage". It also stated "all the
drugs and supplies have now arrived at their intended recipients in
Baghdad". The charity says this is untrue.
Copyright: The Independent