GENEVA (AP) _ Women and children in Iraq badly need antibiotics and other essential drugs to help fight diseases that could turn into epidemics, a U.N. team of doctors said after returning Saturday from Baghdad.

Dr. Ali Khogali, a World Health Organization official who led their one- week U.N. mission, said diarrheal diseases among children have quadrupled since the Persian Gulf War started. Acute respiratory ailments have increased.

Medical supplies are one-sixth of pre-war levels and immunization programs are severely disrupted, he told a news conference. With little clean water available, warm weather could bring on epidemics of cholera and typhoid.

As well as meeting with Iraqi officials, the team saw a hospital in Baghdad and another outside the capital. In one, children had died of leukemia due to lack of drugs, Khogali said.

''Children are eating less, they have a lot of diarrhea and are under stress,'' Dutch health expert Anna Verster said.

During their trip, the seven-member team turned over to Iraqi authorities 54 tons of medical supplies, including antibiotics in children's doses and oral rehydration salts used to fight the effects of diarrhea and similar diseases, WHO headquarters in Geneva said.

''There was a clear need for essential drugs, particularly antibiotics, and other drugs for children and mothers,'' Khogali told the news conference.

The doctors, who were accompanied by U.N. Children's Fund officials, entered Iraq through Iran, and returned to Geneva Saturday. They were not allowed to visit Kuwait.

Khogali said the group saw no war casualties. Its mandate was to check on the state of women and children, he said.

WHO director-general Dr. Hiroshi Nakajima said he will report on the mission to U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar this week, and the U.N. will decide on further action.