Iraq: Who pays the cost? Nº 5

On May 18th 2003, the Iraqui Al-Amal Association, the national Social Watch Focal Point, has issued a newsletter on the Iraq war focusing on the analysis of the cost of the war for civilian people.

IAA Weekly Newsletter Nº 5 - May 18th, 2003

Cholera Outbreak in Iraq

There is huge concern over a potential cholera epidemic in Iraq's second largest city, Basra, and other southern regions. Many cases of cholera have already been confirmed in a number of hospitals, reported WHO and UNICEF, and, in some medical practices, 80% of patients seen are suffering from some sort of water infection.

The risk of water-borne epidemics remains high because of poor sanitation and the lack of safe water.

These two factors are the major causes of diarrhoea, dehydration and malnutrition. Hundreds of thousands of tons of raw sewage are pumped into the Tigris and Euphrates rivers every day. This is where most Iraqis obtain their drinking water. Power-cuts mean that there is nothing to pump the water, and without running water locals are turning to untreated supplies which they cannot afford to boil because of the soaring price of fuel. The electricity shutdown has also brought the sewage pumps to a halt; now sewage is seeping through the punctured holes of those pipes, so that even when the electricity is restarted, and water begins to flow freely again, it will carry potentially deadly bacteria.

Iraq in Danger of Starvation

Iraqi agriculture is on the brink of collapse, with fears that many of its 24.5 million people will go hungry this summer, according to a confidential report being studied by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation. A special assessment prepared by the UN agency's staff in Rome reveals a catastrophe in the making, with crops and poultry being especially hard hit.

A number of post-war problems need to be solved urgently in order to ensure that 60 percent of Iraqis get the heavily subsidised food rations that they have depended on for so long.

Back to Baghdad

After about 12 years of deprivation, Al-Amal has managed to set up its base in Baghdad. A premise has been rented but remains to be furbished and fitted out.

Al-Amal Management Committee is soon going to hold a meeting, for the first time in Baghdad, to discuss Al-Amal plan of action for the coming period, as well as to evaluate what has been achieved since the emergency was announced in February, 2003.

Field Assessment

Al-Amal’s Teams of experts continue to visit locations throughout the middle regions of Iraq. Recently, they visited Karbalaa, Hilla and Diwaniyya and intend to reach as far as Basra in the south. The teams are assessing and researching the basic needs of people, particularly in rural areas, and are focusing especially on the health and water situation in these areas. However, a comprehensive assessment report will be produced in the near future, summarising the findings and identifying the actual needs of people as well as proposing the priorities of action.

Chaos Hampers Humanitarian Aid

Security is by far the most important concern for Iraqis. Numerous security incidents happen daily in the capital. These include looting, banditry, ambushes, car-jacking, physical attacks and killings.

Schools have reopened but most parents are concerned about their children's safety.

NGOs have become a target for attack as they clearly have money as well as valuable equipment and vehicles. Many humanitarian aid agencies have been frustrated by not being able to get into Iraq until their safety can be guaranteed, accusing Coalition Forces of not doing enough to ensure the safety of aid workers trying to help people in Iraq.

Iraq’s Medical Emergency

Like most things in Iraq, the health service is getting worse. The emergency that Iraq's hospitals face is partly due to years of sanctions which have been exacerbated by war on Iraq. Mismanagement and looting of medicines have also played their part.

As well as staff shortages, hospitals suffer a severe lack of medicine available to treat even relatively simple maladies.

Furthermore, when the electricity fails, there is little that doctors can do for patients.

Up to 300,000 Iraqi children in Baghdad face death from acute malnutrition. This number is more than twice as many as before U.S. and British forces invaded the country in March, said UNICEF.

Nutrition rates in Baghdad show that 7.7 per cent of children under five are suffering from acute malnutrition, compared with last year’s figure of 4 per cent.

Meanwhile, on the streets of Baghdad, mounds of stinking rubbish lie rotting in the heat. Often they smoulder after residents have tried to set fire to them to reduce the health hazard.


Guns have become a part of life in Iraq since the fall of Saddam and, as there is no longer a government in place to enforce the law, people are arming themselves.

The country is over-run with arms stockpiled by the Saddam Hussein regime as well as unexploded munitions from the recent war.

Children in Iraq are endangering their lives on a daily basis as they strip dumped ammunitions for copper to sell for food, according to aid agencies.

Christian Aid’s Dominic Nutt said these problems were exacerbated by the current deadlock between the UN and the Coalition over who should run the country.