Reference : V-P-IQ-E-00712
Date : 11/2008
Country/Region : IRAQ
Caption : Amara. Young patient in Al Sadr hospital.
Photographer : SAAD, Omar
Confidentiality level : public
Publication restrictions : publication without restrictions
Copyright : ICRC
Description : Exrtacts from 29-10-2008 TV news footage
ICRC TV News Footage Iraq: millions at risk from contaminated water
After decades of war and neglect, Iraq's health care, water and sanitation services are in a dire state, failing to meet the basic needs of a large part of the population. Despite an improvement in security in some areas, basic services in many places are inadequate.

The ICRC says that the situation has not significantly improved since March 2008 when it published a wide ranging report, "Iraq: no let-up in the humanitarian crisis" that called Iraq's humanitarian situation among the most critical in the world.
Since then, the water supply has continued to deteriorate, with millions of people relying on insufficient and poor quality supplies due to poorly maintained water and sewage systems and a shortage of sanitation engineers.

Millions of people are at serious risk of water-borne diseases, with children particularly vulnerable. Cholera cases peaked in a number of provinces during the hottest months of August and September.

"Iraqis urgently need access to clean water. They try to get it from rivers and wells but these sources are contaminated throughout the country so many people become ill, " says Patrick Yussef, Head of the ICRC sub delegation in Baghdad.

Most of Iraq's water comes from its two main rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, which are heavily polluted by household waste and litter, further contaminating the water supply. In the poorer areas of Baghdad, the streets are flooded with sewage, which seeps into the walls and under the floors of people's houses causing them to collapse.

At 500 dinars (half a US dollar) for 10 litres, many Iraqis cannot afford to buy bottled water and have to drink untreated water from the polluted rivers, at considerable risk to their health.

Under-resourced hospitals with depleted medical supplies are struggling to cope with the numbers of sick. At Al Sadr General Hospital in Amara, doctors sometimes have to supplement the medical supplies from the Ministry of Health with those they buy themselves at the market.

To help hospitals maintain basic health care services, the ICRC provides medicines and surgical dressings. It also supplies plastic bags of drinking water to families in cholera-prone areas. At Abu Ghraib General Hospital the ICRC has installed new water storage tanks, repaired toilets and improved the sewage system.

But the hospitals will continue to have a high case load of people suffering from water-borne diseases as long as people drink from the contaminated rivers.

ICRC water and sanitation experts are working with the Iraqi authorities to repair and maintain pumping stations across Iraq, including Al Wethba and Al Sanak near Baghdad, and along the East Tigris, securing the water supply for millions of people.

The Al Wethba pumping station has been newly renovated by the ICRC, almost doubling the amount of water supplied by the station. It now provides 12700 cubic metres of water a day to some 850,000 people in Baghdad including the city's main hospital.

Original material : digital
Resolution : 3504x2336
Orientation : landscape
Colour/B&W : colour