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[casi] Millions of people in Iraq at risk as water and sewage systems crumble

Source: CARE
Date: 19 May 2003

Millions of people in Iraq at risk as water and sewage systems crumble

CARE experts call for immediate restoration of the Iraqi Central Water

BAGHDAD (May 19, 2003) - The Iraqi Central Water Authority must be
reestablished immediately in order to avoid a major public health crisis,
the international humanitarian organization CARE stated today. Baghdad alone
has a population of 5 million people who are vulnerable to a potential
outbreak of water-borne disease.
"Water and sewage systems are crumbling," said Nick Southern, CARE's
emergency water and sanitation specialist in Baghdad. "Many people do not
have access to safe drinking water, and human waste is backing up and out of
the drains in many parts of Baghdad. The VERY HOT season is coming, when
temperatures will climb to 110 degrees and higher. This is a recipe for
infectious diseases like cholera and typhoid."

"The vacuum caused by the dislocation and dysfunction of the centralized
water authority must be addressed now," said Margaret Hassan, CARE director
in Iraq. "The primary threat to the delivery of safe drinking water to the
Iraqi people is the total absence of direct government support and supply

Iraq's water and sanitation sector is highly centralized. Water authorities
in the governorates are responsible for everyday operation and maintenance
only. All other functions - design, technical support, staffing, salaries,
and the supply of spare parts and equipment - were done from Baghdad. In
anticipation of the war, Iraqi water authorities distributed three months of
supplies to all governorates in order to maintain water treatment plants.
The supplies included fuel for generators, chlorine for purifying water,
spare parts and supplies to repair and maintain infrastructure. It is
estimated that a maximum of one month's worth of supplies remain. It has
been two months since people have collected salaries.

"We are concerned about how the country's water installations will continue
if the management systems are not there to support it," said Hassan. "The
long-term development of Iraq's water supply and sewage treatment plants
will require radical overhaul and different models of decentralized
responsibility. But at this crucial point, Iraq does not have the time nor
the experience to establish these different models. The Iraqi people cannot
afford to cope any longer with dirty drinking water and sewage in the

The situation is critical. Some water treatment and sewage plants were not
providing an acceptable level of treatment even prior to the war. A CARE and
UNICEF water and sanitation monitoring program in 14 governorates in the
central and southern parts of the country found that out of 177 water
treatment plants, 19 percent were classified as good; 55 percent were
acceptable; and 26 percent were poor.

CARE, working in partnership with the International Committee for the Red
Cross and UNICEF, is midway through an assessment of every water and
sanitation installation in the country. CARE staff is making assessments in
eight governorates; Anvar, Diyala, Najaf, Kerbala, Babel, Qadissiya, Wassit,
and Missan.
CARE staff are carrying out an emergency response based on these
assessments. For example, the organization ran a three-week water tankering
operation, serving 25,000 people in rural areas around Heet and is currently
tankering in water for 5,000 people in Annah. CARE has also set up 15 water
tankering points in Baghdad. Additionally, staff have repaired water
treatment plants in Khalif and Kerbala, serving 200,000 and 400,000 people
respectively, and has installed pumps and generators in Heet and Baghdadi.

About CARE: CARE is one of the world's leading humanitarian organizations
fighting global poverty. CARE has been working in Iraq since 1991, focusing
on water and sanitation, children's health and education. Approximately 4
million Iraqi people have benefited from CARE's work in the past 12 years.
For more information, please visit

In Baghdad: Alina Labrada, +8821651101354.
In Atlanta: Allen Clinton, 404-979-9206

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