Lack of water may kill more Iraqi's than bombs and bullets - U2 Feedback

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Old 04-01-2003, 07:19 PM   #1
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Normal Lack of water may kill more Iraqi's than bombs and bullets

You know, I feel really bad for the innocent people in Iraq and this makes me sick but I can't help but get pissed off at the same time. What about Sub Saharan Africa where people die every day because of this problem? It's not on the front page of usatoday .com is it??

Dirty water may become Iraq's biggest killer
By Tim Friend, USA TODAY

Unclean water may kill more Iraqi people during the war than bombs and bullets, United Nations officials warn.

Iraqis buy containers to store water in Baghdad.
By Karim Sahib, AFP

They fear other crises, such as the one in the southern city of Basra, where damage to the electric power grid shut the water-treatment plant immediately after the ground war began March 21.

Most of the city's 1.5 million people had no access to safe water for four or five days. After a week, only half the city had service restored. There are still too many Iraqi fighters in Basra and too much combat there for engineers to get in and restore service to everyone. Monday, British forces stretched a pipeline from Kuwait into southern Iraq, but the water doesn't reach as far as Basra.

Now, officials fear repeats of the Basra crisis in Baghdad and other cities where battles rage or will soon begin. They warn of potential waves of diarrhea and other diseases that will hit children and the elderly particularly hard, causing some to die.

"This conflict will have more people dying from water treatment plants going down than from the war itself," says Geoff Keele, a spokesman for UNICEF, in a telephone interview from Amman, Jordan. He was based in Baghdad until the start of the war.

Much of western and southern Iraq is arid, lightly populated desert. Iraq's major cities, thanks to the Euphrates and Tigris rivers they're built along, have no shortage of water. But those rivers, which supply nearly all of Iraq's municipal drinking water, are horribly polluted. Their electric-powered water treatment plants and pumping stations, vital to the population's health, were already in disrepair before the war began.

Iraqis dump 500,000 tons of raw sewage a day into the Tigris, Euphrates and key tributaries. Loss of power and damage to water treatment plants is directly linked to outbreaks of cholera and a malaria-like condition that Iraqis call "black water fever."

"The main problem is that unclean water is leading to severe malnutrition in children, particularly in infants," Keele says.

Every city in Iraq that relies on municipally treated water is as vulnerable as Basra is to power blackouts. The country's water problems have become increasingly severe over the past decade because of the crumbling infrastructure ignored by the government. "The water purification and distribution systems of Iraq are very dilapidated," Keele says. "The pipes are crumbling and the sewage treatment plants are in dire repair."

Before the war, more than 5 million people, about 20% of Iraqi's population, lacked access to safe drinking water.

As a result, bouts of diarrhea in an Iraqi child have risen from an average of four per year in 1990 to 15 per year in 2002, Keele says. Diarrhea is the leading cause of malnutrition because children are unable to retain fluids and nutrients in their bodies.

"We have children in Iraq who were already malnourished before this war. They are far more susceptible to disease now if they lose access to treated drinking water," Keele says. "There are 100,000 children in Basra at risk for severe fever and death because one treatment plant stopped functioning."

Coalition commanders say they've taken great care not to knock out power plants or other facilities key to civilians. They blamed Saddam Hussein's forces for knocking out electricity in Basra, and therefore shutting down the city's treatment plant. Iraqi officials blamed British bombs.

Aid groups don't try to assess who's responsible for such damage but do try to prepare for the consequences. UNICEF has 40 trucks in Kuwait at the border with Iraq, prepared to deliver about 80,000 gallons of water to Basra as soon as the city is safe to enter. Relief workers had stored water in locations throughout Baghdad, but fear the preparations will not be enough.

American troops are not dependent on Iraq's water system for their needs. Military supply convoys carry tens of thousands of gallons of water in trucks from Kuwait. As the U.S. has gained access to rivers and lakes, the Army has set up Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Units, which can produce sufficient supplies of drinking water for troops.

The Euphrates is the longest river in Southwest Asia, flowing nearly 1,700 miles from the highlands of eastern Turkey through Syria and Iraq to the Persian Gulf.

Northern Iraq is relatively fertile, green and mountainous. The mountains in northeast Iraq, which have peaks as high as 10,000 feet, are part of the same range that extends eastward from the Balkans, through Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan to the Himalayas. Even though the north has considerably more precipitation than central and southern Iraq due to rainfall and snowmelt, summer temperatures can reach 120 F.

The Euphrates and Tigris could make Iraq one of the most agriculturally developed countries in the Middle East. The Euphrates has been significantly altered over time to benefit farmers south of Hit in Iraq. Irrigation canals and Lake Hammar divert a major portion of the river.

The Tigris, at nearly 1,200 miles, has a greater flow than the Euphrates. It also begins in the mountains of Turkey and flows through the cities of Mosul, Tikrit, Samarra and Baghdad. At Al-Qurnah in the south, 100 miles before reaching the Persian Gulf, the Tigris meets the Euphrates and is called Shatt al Arab. Water in the south is brackish and must be desalinated, as well as treated for sewage.

The southern marshes of Iraq were destroyed by Saddam's government following the 1991 Gulf War in an effort to drive out hundreds of thousands of people from the indigenous Ma'dan population. The Ma'dan were central to an uprising against Saddam immediately after the first U.S.-led war against Iraq. His troops drained the marshes, which also were vital wetlands for migratory birds, and burned villages in retribution. The U.S. State Department says the marshes were drained for a failed agricultural project.

The area is regarded as an environmental disaster. The Iraq Foundation Eden Again Project, partially funded by the State Department, plans to restore the wetlands. Biblical scholars claim that the southern marshes of Iraq are the site of the Garden of Eden.

Contributing: Steven Komarow in Iraq, James Cox and Jack Kelley in Kuwait.


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Old 04-02-2003, 03:52 AM   #2
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Thanks for posting that story, it really makes me sad that some of those innocent civilians are the ones who pay the price for the war

I really hope that the US and British troops learn from that desater and try to avoid this desaster when attacking Baghdad

Klaus

p.s. -> how about moving this one to the war forum?
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Old 04-02-2003, 12:42 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally posted by Klaus
Thanks for posting that story, it really makes me sad that some of those innocent civilians are the ones who pay the price for the war

I really hope that the US and British troops learn from that desater and try to avoid this desaster when attacking Baghdad

Klaus

p.s. -> how about moving this one to the war forum?

That's up to the mods, of course, but this is only indirectly war-related. I hate it that this is happening to the Iraqi people, they are innocent, but there's also a terrible water crisis going on in Africa and no one is talking about it. While I'm all for helping the Iraqi people I want to help people in Africa get clean water also.
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Old 04-02-2003, 12:53 PM   #4
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verte76:

you are right, the lack of fresh water for a growing part of the world population makes me verry sad, it would be no big deal for us to provide them with water - while 100.000.000.000 $ for war never is a problem but 10% of that (= a tenth) humanitary seems to be "ways to much"

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Old 04-02-2003, 01:32 PM   #5
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Originally posted by Klaus
verte76:

you are right, the lack of fresh water for a growing part of the world population makes me verry sad, it would be no big deal for us to provide them with water - while 100.000.000.000 $ for war never is a problem but 10% of that (= a tenth) humanitary seems to be "ways to much"

Klaus
I know, I haven't been liking some of the priorities of late. I feel like we have an obligation to help the Iraqis, now that we are in there, but what about everyone else who doesn't have clean water? That's a universal need. We need wells in Africa! The Iraqi conflict hasn't changed that one bit.
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