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Three weeks on, and still no water. Now doctors fear an epidemic Lack of security holds up agencies by Ewen MacAskill in Basra Monday April 14, 2003 The Guardian Doctors in Iraq's second city, Basra, warned yesterday of an epidemic as a majority of the 1.3 million residents were still without safe drinking water three weeks after the war began. Attempts to restore the supply have failed, despite hopes expressed in the first week that it would take a matter of days. Help from aid agencies is only trickling in. Tamara al-Rifai, the representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross based in Kuwait, said looting was partly to blame. Lack of security was making it difficult for aid agencies to enter the town, and looters had taken pipes before they could be installed to help distribution. "The fact that we have gone a few steps back makes it even more serious," she said. Uday Abdul Bakri, general surgeon at the 600-bed Basra general hospital, said the hospital was dealing with many diarrhoea cases and the risk of water-acquired diseases, such as cholera and dysentery, was high. "I think there will be an epidemic," he said. The shortage of drinking water is a problem across southern Iraq. There is huge resentment in Basra against the British forces because of the lack of water and electricity. Residents also blame them for failing to control the looters. One resident in the centre of Basra said: "Bush bad. Blair bad. They destroyed our water and electricity." Another, Axad Toblanid, 50, an engineer, said: "We are unhappy with this freedom. We have no water. We have complained to the British army about this but they are not doing anything. "It is not safe. The British army say, 'we are not policemen.' It is the rule of international law that any town where the army is in control must protect us, but they don't." The army is to draft in two British police officers to Basra to give advice. There are reports that a few hundred Fedayeen, the fighters that were reputed to be most loyal to Saddam Hussein, are still holed up in the city, Shots could be heard in Basra throughout Saturday night as looting continued. But during the day, tension is seeping out of the city. The change in mood began on Saturday. In the morning, the city was largely deserted, with people staying indoors and shops closed, protected by metal grilles. But in the afternoon, though the shops remained closed, street markets opened, selling fruit and vegetables, and residents tentatively left their houses. The busiest areas were the riverside and slime-covered canals, where people were filling plastic water containers. Both are used for sewage. Joint patrols by British military forces and Iraqi police started in Faw, south of Basra, yesterday. Royal Marine Lee Haworth and Lieutenant-Colonel Moyer Abdul Jabar walked side by side through the streets to the fascination of a large crowd following them, Tom Newton Dunn of the Daily Mirror reported in a pooled dispatch. It was the first joint British military and Iraqi police patrol in the country. Col Jabar, 45, a former firefighter, is the only police officer in the 10,000-strong town, and took up the job on Saturday. Former police officers in Basra are also being vetted for links to the Ba'ath party before being allowed to return to their jobs. About 300 have volunteered and have started manning checkpoints around the city. Russia expressed its "growing concern" about the humanitarian situation in Iraq and emphasised yesterday that it was up to the "occupying forces" to take care of the needs of the country's people. King Abdullah of Jordan also expressed concern over the deterioration of the living, health and security situations of millions of Iraqis. His remarks came during a meeting with the UN coordinator for humanitarian affairs in Iraq, Romero Lopes da Silva. King Abdullah told the UN representative that he had ordered his government and armed forces to send two field hospitals with medical teams and equipment to Iraq, and called for a national effort to deliver medical aid and food to Iraqis, especially children. The king has also launched a nationwide blood donation campaign and has asked officials to see if it is possible to bring wounded Iraqi civilians to Jordan for medical treatment. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk