Filipinos Tell Of Food, Medicine Shortages In Iraq and Kuwait
MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Filipinos returning from Iraq and occupied Kuwait told Sunday of long lines for food and of Iraqis scavenging for scraps thrown away at the airport by departing foreigners.
Some of the 437 Filipinos, who arrived here on a flight from Basra, Iraq, also said Iraqi soldiers were still looting groceries and homes in occupied Kuwait.
They said food prices in Baghdad had jumped ten-fold because of the United Nations sanctions imposed following Iraq’s Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait.
″There’s so much hunger there,″ Lorenza Panaranda, 30, said of conditions in Basra, Iraq’s second largest city. ″When we threw away our leftovers, about 10 Iraqis scrambled over our leftovers in the trashcan at the airport. We left whatever food we had with them.″
Gregorio Neri, an Arabic-speaking mechanic who acted as interpreter for the group in Iraq, said consumers in Basra stand in line for up to four hours to buy a single loaf of bread.
″The life of the Iraqis now is hard,″ he said. ″Filipino lives may be difficult, but theirs is miserable. I would never change places.″
Willie Leola said that when his group, which included five infants, cleared customs at Basra airport, customs guards asked for their leftover baby formula.
The Filipinos arrived aboard an Iraqi Airways jet on a flight paid for by the International Organization of Migration.
An estimated 90,000 Filipinos were working in Kuwait and Iraq before the Iraqi invasion.
Miss Panaranda, who had worked as a sales clerk in Kuwait, said she went to Baghdad last month and then to Basra for the flight. She said shoopers waited for hours to buy limited supplies of food in Baghdad.
″There were queues for food all over,″ she said. ″Instead of rice, they eat gruel made of corn.″ She said that in one neighborhood, shoppers were limited to five kilos of rice per month.
Conchita Balisi, 27, a former governess in Kuwait, said most groceries are closed in the occupied city.
″Some Kuwaitis go to Saudi Arabia to buy food and then sell it back in Kuwait,″ she said.
Lisa Santuyo, a maid in Kuwait, said Iraqi soldiers were looting homes and shops of food, appliances and other goods to ship back to Iraq.
″At night, there is shooting,″ she said. ″Families would then pray as they wept. Soldiers go to houses and Kuwaitis are afraid, especially if Iraqi soldiers find out they have relatives in the army.″