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Iraqi Capital Hit by Water Crisis

By Nasir Kadhim

BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 19, 2005 (ENS) - Water pumps have become one of the best selling items in the city, as residents battle water shortages during the unbearable heat of July.

Baghdad has been plagued by chronic water shortages caused by poor maintenance - and insurgents’ targeting - of infrastructure. As a result, some of the water that does reach residents is unfit for drinking, and has caused cholera in some cases.

Last month, a rocket attack on a main water pipeline near Baghdad left millions in the city without water for days.

The answer for many residents has been to purchase a water pump, which costs about US$10 dollars in local markets. The pump is hooked up to a water faucet and sucks out the water in the pipes.

water

An Iraqi man pours precious water into a cistern. The water crisis has left many families unable to cook, wash clothes or bathe. (Photo by Sebastien Carliez courtesy IFRC)
Abdul Jabbar Rahman, who sells construction materials at his shop, began selling the pump at his business after he heard of its popularity.

“I bought 20 pumps to sell, but they immediately sold out so I hurried to buy more,” he said.

Even government employees are recognizing the usefulness of the pump. An employee of the Ministry of Water Resources was recently seen carrying the product on a street in Baghdad.

“I just bought it after my neighbor told me I should get one,” said the ministry employee. “What age are we in when people are obliged to use such old implements?”

Alya Mohammed, a schoolteacher, said the pump was the only way to solve the intermittent water supply that her family had been suffering from for weeks.

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International Red Cross water tankers distribute water to thirsty Baghdad residents. (Photo courtesy ICRC)
“We need a large amount of water every day,” she said. “Otherwise, we can’t work.”

To alleviate the crisis, the Baghdad local council has deployed about 130 water tankers throughout the city to deliver drinking water to areas facing shortages.

Mazin Makiye, head of the Baghdad Council, has also urged the national government and the Council of Ministers to aid the city during its water crisis.

Taxi driver Riyadh Sadoon said people are beginning to ration what they have.

“We have forgotten about watering our gardens and cleaning our house,” he said. “We focus only on getting enough to drink and bathe.”

As Samir Ali was pumping water into barrels, he said it looked as if there were a constant party in front of the water faucet at his home because crowds are gathered there all the time.

“If the government can’t provide drinking water for its citizens, then how can it handle all the affairs of Iraq?” he asked.

{Published in cooperation with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.}



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