Medical team frets about restaurant--as Kurds starve

April 11, 1991|By Diana Jean Schemo | Diana Jean Schemo,Sun Staff Correspondent

CIZRE, Turkey -- The dozen or so nurses and doctors had

been waiting over an hour for lunch at the Kadoglu Hotel restaurant, where the service was, as usual, maddeningly slow.

Finally, two nurses lurched into the kitchen and came back holding three dishes of yogurt high in the air. A burst of applause came from the table. Another nurse fetched a plate of bread, prompting more laughter.

Three hours southeast of here, in a tent made of blankets draped over three branches, at the Isikveren refugee camp, three babies cried at once as darkness fell. Dinner that night: a jar of gray water from melted snow, laced with acid rain from the burning oil fields of Kuwait.

Some 45 nurses and 14 doctors were sent here last Saturday -- two days before U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III's trip to the refugee camp.

The Turkish government announced that the nurses and doctors would begin work immediately at refugee camps along the Turkish border with Iraq. An estimated 1 million Kurdish refugees are blocked from entering Turkey, some dying from lack of food and water, shelter and medical care.

But hours after Mr. Baker's plane left for Jerusalem, the impressive road show laid on for him disappeared. The Red Crescent trucks never made it to the Isikveren camp. The military trucks, packed with food and guarded by blue-bereted soldiers, went back to their barracks.

U.S. diplomats in Ankara did not appear troubled by Turkey's relief efforts, which they described as "a very good effort to do the best with what they had."

"We are doing our best to supply things. We obviously don't have the final say in everything," a diplomat said. "I do not get the impression that people are foot-dragging in trying to get aid to people."

However, the Turkish doctors and nurses here, though they are in Cizrefor the visit of Mr. Baker, have spent the last five days frequenting the tourist attractions of the area in the three ambulances that accompanied them. When the ambulances are not serving as taxis, they are parked outside the hotel.

The nurses return to the hotel for lunch and dinner, sometimes wearing Kurdish head scarves and trinkets.

They play OK -- a four-way, Turkish version of tick-tack-toe using stones -- in the nearby teahouse, raising eyebrows among the usually solidly male clientele with their presence and their jokes.

"Women like simple things," one quipped the other day.

"For example?" a male nurse asked.

"Men. They're simple."

The ambulances have yet to drive up the winding, muddy path to reach the refugees. The nurses have yet to see babies in the hTC final stages of dehydration from diarrhea.

Officially, the doctors and nurses are waiting for the go-ahead from the Health Ministry that sent them here, which promises to deploy them once medical tents are erected and equipped at the camps. Today they are supposed to learn where they will work.

But the Turkish doctors and nurses -- like the Health Ministry -- do not appear eager to tackle Isikveren's woes.

Dr. Umar Ayoub el Dosky, a surgeon and refugee from Dohuk Hospital in Iraq, who has been trying to look after the refugees, said that no Turkish doctor has come to ask about the rampant diarrhea, gastroenteritis and pneumonia that are daily killing off refugees at the largest camp in Turkey.

The first doctors he saw came Tuesday. And the two of them were from Switzerland.

The first sighting of an ambulance here Monday brought the ailing and dying crowding around it as it wound up the mountain. But the ambulance was only carrying visitors.

"We are not doctors. You must believe us," the ambulance's loudspeaker called. "We are just in a doctor's van."

A surgeon sent here from Adana, who did not want to be identified, said he did not think that Turkey should handle the refugee influx alone, but he bristled at volunteers from Doctors Without Borders and Doctors of the World, both established disaster relief organizations headquartered in Paris.

The doctor from Adana found the foreign doctors arrogant and their help "not enough."

"They did not understand the problem," he said.

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