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[casi] S Iraq: 'no urgent humanitarian crisis regarding water supply in most urban centres' ?

Source: Action by Churches Together (ACT)
Date: 25 Jun 2003

ACT assessment results in rural water supply and munitions disposal project
in Basrah and Maysan

An ACT (Action by Churches Together) Needs Assessment that was carried out
10-21 May by Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) and other ACT partner agencies in
the south of Iraq gave a better understanding of the post-war situation. The
results of this assessment have been the basis of a new project where NCA
will cooperate with fellow ACT-member DanChurch Aid (DCA).

The assessment concluded that in most urban centres there is no urgent
humanitarian crisis regarding water supply. Rural water supply and
sanitation, however, have been neglected since the 1990s by Saddam Hussein's
civil service. Access to potable water in rural areas has declined by half
from its pre-sanction level to around 44% today (UN Office of the
Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, 24/4/03). Today, following the war, very
few agencies amongst the UN, NGO, and military communities have shown
interest in this issue.

The ACT assessment was based largely on the inspection of a limited number
of villages between Al Qurnah and Al Amara along the Tigris, although it is
suspected that conditions are representative for many rural communities
along the Tigris and Euphrates in upper southern Iraq. Sanitation facilities
in villages are unsophisticated. Defecation takes place either in the
fields, or in surficial / shallow drop-vault latrines, where accumulated
excrements may be accessible for domestic animals such as chickens.

Many rural (and even peri-urban) communities have been equipped with
so-called water treatment Compact Units (CUs). These were largely installed
in the mid 1970s. Up to around 1990, these units were maintained and the
Water Directorate of each Governorate supplied spare parts. Since that time,
however, presumably due to sanctions, support from the Water Directorate
dropped away, and villages have been increasingly left to fend for themselve
s as regards maintenance of these systems. They have not been able to do
this successfully. Units have almost inevitably fallen into disrepair. In
some cases, village units are non-functional due to lack of electrical
supply or to looting of parts such as chlorination units. Reinstatement of
these units within a reasonably short time frame by technical intervention
or reinstatement of power is feasible. Most units have, however, fallen into
disrepair due to lack of maintenance.

The result is that, in many cases, villages are simply pumping raw river
water (often downstream of a major town or city) as potable water to
households. In other cases, where even the pump has failed, village women
walk to the river to collect water. Occasionally, Water Directorates tanker
potable water from urban treatment works to villages. In most cases,
reinstatement of protected potable water supply to village communities will
not simply be a technical task, but will necessitate:

An understanding of community decision making processes
The identification of means to sustain CUs at village level
Activating Water Directorates to assume some responsibility for rural water

Bechtel has categorically stated that they will not focus on rural water and
sanitation. This field is clearly an area where NGO activity is important.
However, the DCA / NCA team will not only rehabilitate rural water supply
systems. The need for Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) is urgent and well
documented. DCA has established a team of Ammunition Technician Officers and
EOD engineers based in Basrah that will carry out danger area surveys and
hazards disposal activities. The focus for all project activities will be on
the southern Governorates of Basrah and Maysan.

The joint DCA / NCA WatSan team will engage in the following activities:

Training, mobilising and managing teams of locally recruited staff.

Follow the DCA EOD teams' progress in munitions disposal from public
buildings, schools, water and sewage works in towns, suburbs and rural
areas. Following munitions disposal, ensure that necessary minor repairs are
carried out to these public facilities and public utilities to ensure that
water and sanitation systems are restored to operationality.

Otherwise, pending the progress of disposal activities, to engage in a
program aimed at the rehabilitation of around 20 rural water supply systems,
most probably in the Tigris Valley between Al Qurnah and Al Amara. This will
contain, technical, community mobilisation and hygiene components.

Support local Water Directorates, especially in Basrah and Al Amara with
office refurbishment, information management and storage. Engage Water
Directorates in the rehabilitation of the selected water supply systems.

Clarify the division of responsibility for maintenance of rural water supply
systems between Water Directorate, village community and DCA / NCA.

Norwegian Church Aid, a member of the Action by Churches Together (ACT)
alliance, is an ecumenical, independent development aid organisation that
works to secure the individual's basic human rights, regardless of gender,
political conviction, religious affiliation and ethnicity.The organisation
was founded in 1947 and today co-operates with local partners in more than
70 countries.
For more information please contact:

Anne Hilde Torvik
Iraq Program Assistent, Oslo
phone +22 09 27 63

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