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[casi] CARE warns of Iraqi chlorine shortage, risk of waterborne diseases

27 May 2003

CARE warns of Iraqi chlorine shortage, risk of waterborne diseases

ATLANTA (May 27) - A shortage of chlorine in Iraq will cause a serious
problem with waterborne diseases in the next four to six weeks if not dealt
with immediately, according to the international humanitarian agency CARE.

Sewage treatment plants are degrading by the day, and need repairs and
increased capacity to avoid a public health crisis, says Nick Southern, an
Assessment and Program Design Officer with CARE, who has been assessing
water and sanitation needs in and around Baghdad for the past three weeks.
"Chlorine alone won't clean dirty water. The 'black water' must first go
through a filtering process and this is not being done," says Southern.
"Basically in all the towns I've visited there's this dirty water backing up
in the treatment plants and running into the streets and rivers."

Sewage continues to flood the streets of Baghdad in areas that were
unaffected by such problems under the former government, as well as in areas
where infrastructure was neglected. The collapse of basic services like
water and sewage is contributing to a climate of social unrest.

"It's all very dysfunctional. Adding to this is intensely hot weather.
Combining the two creates a recipe for cholera and typhoid," says Southern.

Typical of the problems is the city of Karbala, home to one of Iraq's
favorite mosques. Now people are free to visit Karbala to worship, for the
first time in years, swelling the city's population from 400,000 to a
million and a half on Fridays.

"On a good day the sewage treatment plant limps along with water spurting
out of pipes in every direction," says Southern. "Some parts are held
together with rubber bands. It cannot handle the extra waste produced by an
additional million or so people."

CARE, which operates a fleet of mobile repair units for water treatment
systems, will soon be sending a team to Karbala to make necessary repairs.

Nick Southern returned Monday to his base of Nairobi, Kenya, and is
available for interviews.

In Baghdad: Allen Clinton +881 631 559 570
In Atlanta: Rick Perera 404-979-9453 / Lurma Rackley

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