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[casi] Latest on continuing killing Iraq kids w/ passive biowafare

Dear Colleagues,

    As an ex-refugee, I can imagine how these kids are dying due
to the fact that the US gov. puts it's efforts on looting the oil,
while saving the lives of kids ranks somewhere about as low in the priorities
as  making baseball the national sport of Iraq.

    I'm glad there is at least one mainstream jounalist in the US with the
integrity to go after the truth.

Humanitarian groups alarmed by water emergencies in Iraq
GNS Spotlight Posted June 23 on GNS


Gannett News Service

WASHINGTON — Iraq’s water infrastructure largely survived the 15,000 bombs of
war, but it buckled under the crazed aftermath.
Looting, lawlessness and unreliable electricity have handicapped or crippled
hundreds of water lines, sewage treatment plants, pumping stations, and
depleted supply warehouses.

In the southern port city of Basra, where ground water is naturally salty and
brackish and water wells are useless, humanitarian organizations began
reporting an alarming shortage in potable water as far back as April.

Yet on May 15, the newly arrived chief of the U.S.-led civilian authority
described Basra’s water quality as good. “Better than it has been in years,”
boasted Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.

The pronouncement was in stark contrast with comments from World Health
Organization and UNICEF officials who at that moment were warning of
waterborne epidemics in Iraq’s second-largest city.

Bremer’s statement points to the problems faced by strangers parachuting into
a foreign country to assess and govern it, aid workers say.
The Pentagon said he based his conclusion in part on the high levels of
chlorine detected at Basra’s water treatment plants. But aid workers in the
field were checking the water lines running into town and the tap water in
residential homes and found no chlorine, only pollution.

Geoff Keele of UNICEF believes this was a result from pollution seeping into
holes in the line and overwhelming the system. Some residents on the outskirts
of Basra so fear entering the relative anarchy of downtown to retrieve their
drinking water that they have shot or pounded holes in the main water line
that stretches for 10 miles above ground. The holes let in bacteria and
polluted ground water, Keele said.

UNICEF blames some of the more than 500 breaks found in the water lines of
Baghdad to the “shocks that the bombing sent through the ground.”
But Keele said the looting that followed “has created far more damage than the
combat itself.

There are lakes of raw sewage in Baghdad caused by spotty electricity from the
damaged and looted power plants that drive the sewage treatment plants.
Emergency generators are available, but they can operate the plants at about
half of normal capacity.

SUBHEAD: ‘Steep learning curve

Keele said the United States, Britain and Australia — the primary members of
the coalition authority — are working to improve conditions in Iraq, but “have
a steep learning curve.

“UNICEF has been in the country and acting on the ground for 20 years,” Keele
said from his hotel in Baghdad. “The coalition authorities will have to build
those (kind of) relationships, and that takes time. … Unfortunately, the
people don’t have much time. They are feeling desperate.”
>From April 28 to June 4, WHO recorded 73 cases of cholera in Iraq. Sixty-eight
of those were in Basra — 10 times more than WHO officials found during the
same period last year.

Cholera, an infectious waterborne disease, is caused by a bacteria that
thrives in heat. Temperatures in Iraq already exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit,
and the hottest months of summer lie ahead.

“Diarrhea may sound trivial to much of the world, but in Iraq — and in these
conditions — it can kill,” said Hans von Sponeck, a former chief of U.N.
humanitarian missions to Iraq.

On Sunday, more than a month after WHO first warned of waterborne epidemics
developing in Basra, the Pentagon approved a private contract to replace parts
for the city’s four water treatment plants.

Military officials also rehired 2,000 Basra police officers to discourage
outlaws from looting power plants, pumping stations and supply warehouses. A
main pumping station that serves 100,000 people in Basra was looted of its
equipment, wiring, doors, frames, even the nuts and bolts, Keele said.

Margaret Hassan, Country Director of Iraq for the humanitarian group CARE
International, sounded unimpressed with the beefed-up security.
“It’s a bit after the horse has bolted, if you know what I mean,” she said.

Two of CARE’s vehicles have been car-jacked, and one of its warehouse guards
was shot in May.

Today, emergency crews from UNICEF are in southern Iraq repairing pumping
stations, water lines, sewage treatment plants, and distributing pamphlets
that explain why the water lines should not be tapped directly.

They also are directing a convoy of water tankers and tractor trailers that
began arriving in mid-June with a three-month supply of chlorine to treat
water. That will supplement an emergency supply of chlorine ordered recently
by the coalition authority.

SUBHEAD: Fetid canals

In the first eight months of 1991, after Iraq’s water infrastructure was
damaged by the Persian Gulf War, the New England Journal of Medicine reported
that nearly 47,000 more children than normal died in Iraq and the country’s
infant mortality rate doubled to 92.7 per 1,000 live births.

People dehydrated by diarrhea and cholera will typically consume more water.
With the main water line in Basra damaged, some residents are drawing their
drinking water from irrigation canals that teem with the fetid waste from
malfunctioning sewage treatment plants.

A shortage of cooking gas — or its inaccessibility — is preventing some people
from boiling the canal water, Keele said. Some Iraqis are stripping bark from
trees to use as firewood. Others descended on schools in Basra where the Iraqi
military stored crates containing live mortar rounds. They dumped the rounds
onto the ground and took the wooden crates to burn.

As recently as Friday, WHO continued to call the water situation in Basra
critical and warned that relief measures undertaken by UNICEF were only for
the short term.

“You can’t recall the war, but this issue is a live one. If we do the just
thing and the sane thing and the humane thing, then we can save a lot of
(innocent) lives,” said George Washington University professor Tom Nagy, who
traveled to Iraq this winter with a team of engineering and health

Nagy’s group toured hospitals and water treatment plants to assess the
civilian consequences of war. He joined von Sponeck in warning the United
States about Iraq’s fragile civilian infrastructure.

During 13 years of U.N. economic sanctions, pumps, pipes and other
water-system supplies coming into Iraq were vetted for fear that they would be
converted into weapons. Sanctions turned Iraqis into a “society of fixers,”
said von Sponeck, who resigned his U.N. post in 2000 to protest the sanctions.

“They were always trying to fix stuff that was dilapidated and should have
long ago been abandoned, discarded, replaced. … The system was extremely
fragile even before the war.

Navy Cmdr. Chris Isleib of the Coalition Provisional Authority blames former
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein for the flawed infrastructure. Isleib said help
is on the way.

“The situation is getting better every day, but it is far from ideal,” he
said. “We go in there with a lot of smart people and as much money as we can
bring but it is not a perfect place with a perfect plan. … We can’t do
miracles here. It is going to take time.

Thomas J. Nagy, Ph.D.
Assoc. Prof. of Expert Systems
George Washington Univeristy Sch. of Business & Public Mgt.
Washington, D.C. 20052

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