Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Public Health in Iraq is not Off Topic

ABC News, bless our fearless guardians of truth and the public interest, has put up a major feature on its web site called Iraq: Where things stand. It is not for this blog to go into all of it (I recommend Today in Iraq), but the supply of clean water is certainly one of the most important issues as far as public health is concerned. Here's what ABC says:

Water Quality Better in Iraq's Cities
Rural Areas Worse Off Regarding Water and Sanitation

Today, water treatment in urban areas is clearly improving, while rural areas suffer disproportionately from a lack of clean water and sewage treatment. Sewage treatment in rural areas is virtually nonexistent and waste often flows directly from these places into the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

Overall, nearly one in five urban households and three in five rural households still do not have access to safe drinking water, according to recent reports.

It is worth noting that in many parts of the country these problems were severe before the war as well, as the country suffered the effects of U.N. sanctions.

Facts and Figures

Availability of clean water — prewar: 5.25 billion liters/day.
Current: estimated 5 billion liters/day.
Dec '06 (goal): 7 billion liters/day).

The U.S.-led Projects & Contracts Office says it plans to spend $1 billion over the next two years on water/sewage reconstruction. (Source: U.S. Projects and Contracts Office)

Note that the headline does not exactly correspond to the contents of the story. But never mind. Here's what Riverbend says, who actually lives in Baghdad:

There hasn’t been a drop of water in the faucets for six days. six days. Even at the beginning of the occupation, when the water would disappear in the summer, there was always a trickle that would come from one of the pipes in the garden. Now, even that is gone. We’ve been purchasing bottles of water (the price has gone up) to use for cooking and drinking. Forget about cleaning. It’s really frustrating because everyone cleans house during Eid. It’s like a part of the tradition. The days leading up to Eid are a frenzy of mops, brooms, dusting rags and disinfectant. The cleaning makes one feel like there's room for a fresh start. It's almost as if the house and its inhabitants are being reborn. Not this year. We’re managing just enough water to rinse dishes with. To bathe, we have to try to make-do with a few liters of water heated in pots on kerosene heaters.

Water is like peace- you never really know just how valuable it is until someone takes it away. It’s maddening to walk up to the sink, turn one of the faucets and hear the pipes groan with nothing. The toilets don’t function… the dishes sit piled up until two of us can manage to do them- one scrubbing and rinsing and the other pouring the water.

Who do you believe?

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