Three Months After Fall, Baghdad Still Suffers
Humanitarian agency calls for security, restoration of essential services
July 9 marks the three-month anniversary of the fall of Baghdad. But security and essential services, such as electricity and water, still have not been restored to pre-war levels. The humanitarian agency CARE is asking Coalition authorities to focus on ensuring the safety and health of the Iraqi people, particularly in Baghdad, which remains unstable.
"I wish I could say that the suffering has ended, but what I see is that the problems that were there immediately following the war are still making life difficult for the Iraqi people," says Margaret Hassan, CARE Iraq country director. "Without security and basic services, we will only see things get worse for everyone. It doesn't need to be this way. The people of Iraq have suffered enough already," Hassan says.
Lack of security remains the greatest hindrance to effective humanitarian aid. Murders and carjackings are still all too common. Most recent attacks have targeted Coalition forces; however, CARE is increasingly worried about the potential for harm to humanitarian agencies and other "soft targets," especially following recent attacks on Iraqi civilians working to restore electricity. Theft, too, is still a serious problem. In one Baghdad health care center where CARE works, staff asked CARE not to supply high-protein biscuits for malnourished children for fear that these supplies would attract looters. CARE has improved clinic security by repairing doors, windows and locks; but children leave the clinic hungry.
Since June 23, electricity shortages in Baghdad have been severe. In many parts of the city, there was no electricity at all for 72 hours, and since then many people have had electricity for just two hours per day. Phone systems are not functioning, and most Iraqis have no way of communicating with the Coalition Provisional Authority or the outside world.
Water, waste treatment, hospitals and factories in Iraq all depend on electricity. The risk of cholera and other disease outbreaks remains high. The World Health Organization (WHO), CARE and other organizations are trying to prevent epidemics by ensuring clean water flows in hospitals and communities, establishing surveillance systems, repairing laboratory testing centers, and re-establishing immunization programs. CARE and the Red Cross (ICRC) have completed repairs to more than 60 water installations. More work is in progress, including restoring the Hillah Water Treatment plant in Babel governorate to full capacity. When CARE's work there is done, 550,000 people in the area will have clean water flowing through their taps. Fully restoring Iraq's infrastructure will take years.
"It's the responsibility of the Coalition Provisional Authority to ensure the basic needs of the people are met," Hassan said. "So far, that hasn't happened."
For more information, or to contact CARE, see their website at: www.care.org
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