BAGHDAD - The collapse of Iraq's infrastructure has created a worsening water
crisis that is killing untold numbers of Iraqis.
Iraq, with its famous Tigris and Euphrates rivers that run the length of the
country, is now unable to provide drinking water to most of its people.
"The two rivers are still there, great as they always were, and flowing
all through the year," chief engineer Ahmad Salman of the Baghdad Water
Authority told IPS. "Yet Iraqis are thirsty, and we are ashamed of being
engineers in the service. We have simply failed to provide our people with half
of the drinking water they need."
Much of the country is suffering severe lack of water, and the small quantities
supplied are not good for human use.
"I analyzed the water supplied by the water authority, and the result
was shocking," Dr. Ibrahim Ali, a laboratory owner in Baghdad told IPS.
"It is definitely not good for human consumption, and every time we analyze
it we find something new that might, in time, cause death."
The doctor added, "Various kinds of bacterial pollution and germs we are
finding can be as dangerous as biological weapons."
Iraqi hospitals are full of people with illnesses due to the unsafe water.
Doctors at several hospitals confirmed to IPS that water is one of the worst
causes of diseases, especially among children, and that some children had died
of water-borne diseases compounded by a severe lack of medicines.
These problems are exacerbated during the summer when both the quantity and
quality of water are at their lowest.
"One of the reasons for this lack of water is lack of electric power and
fuel for generators," a member of a local municipal council in Baghdad,
speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS. "We have got tired of raising
our needs for the water stations because our ministers and their leaders are
busy fighting over chairs so that they make as much money as possible before
they are thrown away."
US ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker acknowledged to reporters Jul. 19 that
Baghdad residents were receiving on average only one hour of electricity a day.
Before the US-led invasion, Baghdad residents received 16-24 hours of electricity
daily. Without electricity, water cannot be pumped to homes.
A report released Jul. 30 by the international agency Oxfam and NCCI, a network
of aid organizations working in Iraq, said that eight million Iraqis, nearly
one in three, were in dire need of emergency aid.
The report, "Rising to the Humanitarian Challenge in Iraq" said that
70 percent of Iraqis are without adequate water supplies, compared to 50 percent
in 2003, the year the US-led invasion of Iraq was launched. About 80 percent
of Iraqis lack effective sanitation, the report said.
According to the Oxfam report, "child malnutrition rates have risen from
19 percent before the US-led invasion in 2003 to 28 percent now." Lack
of potable water is at the root of most such conditions.
"It is corruption more than anything else," an engineer at the Baghdad
Water Authority, who did not wish to be named, told IPS. "The authority
is full of corruption from bottom to top, and there is no way to improve the
situation unless the political situation is improved by removing these corrupt
An IPS correspondent was advised not to go to the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources
in the face of a danger of being kidnapped by security men at the ministry.
"It is another weapon that the Americans are killing us with," 62-year-old
Abu Mahmood, a carpenter from Baghdad told IPS. "No water means diseases
that lead to slow, but certain death. They did it to us at the time of sanctions
and now it is their chance to do it again without firing bullets and making
Few Iraqis see hope under the present government. "The problem is that
we do not have a government like any other country," Baghdad resident Nabhan
Mukhlis told IPS. "We should just stop complaining and surrender to the
death penalty that was issued the day Americans decided to invade our country."
(Inter Press Service)