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Iraq will suffer from cholera for two years -govt

Aseel Kami

BAGHDAD, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Iraq will continue to suffer from cholera for the next two years until projects for providing sanitised water and a new sewage system are built, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

"Since there is a defect in the infrastructure in providing sanitised water and in sewage, the problem of cholera will stay deep rooted," Adel Abdullah, general inspector in the Health Ministry, told a news conference.

"Within two years there are ambitious projects to provide all Baghdad's districts with sanitised water in sufficient quantities and sewage projects. When these projects are complete, cholera will become history."

Iraq has been hit by a cholera outbreak this year, focused mainly on the north but lately spreading to the capital Baghdad.

Abdullah said 4,637 cases of cholera have been registered in Iraq, mostly in the two cities of Kirkuk and Sulaimaniya in northern Iraq. So far 24 cases have been fatal.

Last month, the United Nations children's agency UNICEF said in a report that only 20 percent of families outside Baghdad had access to proper sewage, and Iraq's sewage treatment plants operate at just 17 percent of capacity.

"In general, Iraq's water and sanitation networks are in a critical condition. Pollution of waterways by raw sewage is perhaps the greatest environmental and public health hazard facing Iraqis -- particularly children," the report said.

"Waterborne diarrhoeal diseases kill and sicken more Iraqi children than anything except pneumonia. We estimate that only one in three Iraqi children can rely on a safe water source -- with Baghdad and southern cities most affected.

"Rural poor and displaced families not living in permanent housing (about 500,000 people) are extremely unlikely to have a regular water supply."

Abdullah said in the east side of Baghdad there had been 106 cases of cholera, including one fatality. In the west there had been nine cases, seven of them, including two fatalities, in an institution for the severely disabled.

A World Health Organisation clinic has been set up at the institution and patients are being provided bottled water, the UNICEF report said.

"While national caseloads are declining, we are increasingly concerned about a possible outbreak in Baghdad. The capital accounts for 79 percent of all new cases," it said.

UNICEF is working with WHO to try to limit the spread in the capital and treat the sick as Iraq's rainy season sets in.

The UN agency is providing oral rehydration salts and water purification tablets for families -- three million were distributed to the most affected parts of Baghdad two weeks ago.

UNICEF is also providing jerry cans at water distribution points, and trucking an additional 180,000 litres of safe water per day to Baghdad's four most affected districts. (editing by Peter Graff and Elizabeth Piper)


:: Article nr. 38897 sent on 04-dec-2007 17:49 ECT

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Link: www.reliefweb.int/rw/RWB.NSF/db900SID/SSHN-79KJNG?OpenDocument



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