Cholera spreads in Iraq
- Cholera spreads in Iraq as health services collapse
By Patrick Cockburn
31 August 2007
Lack of clean drinking water and poor sanitation has led to 5,000
people in northern Iraq contracting cholera.
The outbreak is among the most serious signs yet that Iraqi health and
social services are breaking down as the number of those living in
camps and poor housing increases after people flee their homes.
"The disease is spreading very fast," Dr Juan Abdallah, a senior
official in Kurdistan's health ministry, told a UN agency. "It is the
first outbreak of its kind here in the past few decades."
Doctors in Sulaimaiyah in Iraqi Kurdistan have appealed for help
because of the rapidly increasing number of cases, saying there is a
shortage of medicines. Although the city has been less affected by
fighting than almost anywhere in Iraq, Unicef says that mains water is
only available for two hours a day and many people have dug shallow
wells outside their homes.
"There is a shortage of medicines to control the disease and the focal
point [the source of the disease] hasn't been identified yet," Dr
Dirar Iyad of Sulaimaniyah General Hospital told the UN news agency
Irin. Ten people have already died and he expects more deaths to occur
"over the next couple of days as victims are already in an advanced
stage of illness."
The number of Iraqis fleeing their homes has risen from 50,000 to
60,000 a month, the UN High Commission for Refugees reported earlier
"My two children, husband and mother have been affected by cholera
because we weren't able to get purified water and one of my children
is very sick in hospital," said Um Abir, a 34-year-old mother. "We
have been displaced since January and we have to camp near a rubbish
tip which, according to the doctor, might be the reason for all of the
family being affected." The number of Iraqi refugees stands at 4.2
million of whom two million have been displaced within Iraq. Many live
in huts made out of rubbish and have no fresh water supplies. In
addition to Sulaimamiyah, the cholera has spread to the oil city of
"The bad sanitation in Iraq, especially in the outskirts of cities
where IDPs [internally displaced person] are camped, has put people at
serious risk," said Dr Abdullah. "In Sulaimaniyah and Kirkuk, at least
42 per cent of the population don't have access to clean water and
proper sewage systems." Unicef says that local reports suggest that
only 30 per cent of people in Sulaimaniyah have clean drinking water.
Most of Iraq outside Kurdistan is flat so water and sewage need to be
pumped, but this has often become impossible due to a lack of
electricity. The water in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers is highly
polluted and undrinkable.
In central and southern Iraq, the Mehdi Army, commanded by the
nationalist Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, has so far obeyed his
surprise instruction to suspend their activities for six months after
clashes with police and rival militiamen in Kerbala left 52 dead and
hundreds wounded. Checkpoints that normally protect the Sadrist
bastion in Sadr City in Baghdad were unmanned yesterday.
Militia leaders say they will fight if provoked. "It will be hard to
stand still with our hands tied when we are attacked or arrested by
the Americans," said Abu Hazim, a Mehdi commander. Ahmed al-Shaibani,
an aide of Mr Sadr, said the suspension might only last a week if
6 million people, 117 degrees and no! water
By Richard Becker
Western Regional Coordinator, ANSWER Coalition
Friday, August 3, 2007
A crime against humanity committed by the occupying power
For the past 24 hours, Baghdad has had virtually no running water.
Major parts of the city of six million people have lacked running
water for six days, while daily high temperatures have ranged from 115
to 120 degrees. The tiny amount of water dripping through the pipes is
causing many of those who must drink it to suffer acute intestinal
According to reports, not enough electricity is available to run
Baghdad's water pumps. This in a country with vast energy resources.
Corporate media outletsto the extent they have reported this horrific
and mind-boggling story at allhave treated it as a failure on the
part of Iraqis.
In reality, it is an appalling war crime committed by the occupying
power, the U.S. military. It threatens the lives of tens of thousands
of people in the short term and unthinkable numbers of people unless
it is rectified immediately.
According to Article 55 of Geneva Conventions (1949) to which the U.S.
government is a signatory: "To the fullest extent of the means
available to it the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring the food
and medical supplies of the population; it should, in particular,
bring in the necessary foodstuffs, medical stores and other articles
if the resources of the occupied territory are inadequate."
Article 59 states: "If the whole or part of the population of an
occupied territory is inadequately supplied, the Occupying Power shall
agree to relief schemes on behalf of the said population, and shall
facilitate them by all the means at its disposal."
To say that a huge city deprived of running water is "inadequately
supplied" would rank as one of the great understatements of human history.
Of course, the shortage of waterthe most vital of all
necessitiesdoes not extend to the U.S. personnel and contractors
The U.S. government tries to relieve itself of its obligations by
pretending that Iraq's "sovereignty" was restored in June 2004. But
that is just another hoax.
Since its illegal invasion and conquest of Iraq in the spring of 2003,
the real state power in the country has been the U.S. military.
This latest catastrophe to afflict the Iraqi people is another
poisonous fruit of imperialist occupation. Not even in the worst times
during the U.S. blockade of Iraq from 1990-2003, did such a disaster
The U.S. regime in Iraq must provide the people of Baghdad with relief
in the short-term to avert unprecedented disaster. The U.S. occupation
must come to an immediate end. The officials responsible for the
terrible crimes committed against the Iraqi people must be held
accountable. The U.S. government owes Iraq vast reparations for the
death and destruction imposed on that society by an illegal war of
All Out for the September 15 Mass March!
50,000 Iraqi refugees' forced into prostitution
By Nihal Hassan in Damascus
Women and girls, many alarmingly young, who fled the chaos at home are
being further betrayed after reaching 'safety' in Syria
It's Monday night in a dingy club on the outskirts of the Syrian
capital. Two dozen girls are moving half-heartedly on the dance floor,
lit up by flashing disco lights.
They are dessed in tight jeans, low-cut tops and knee-high boots, but
the girls' make-up can't disguise the fact that most are in their
mid-teens. It's a strange sight in a conservative Muslim country, but
this is the sex business, and it's booming as a result of the war in Iraq.
Backstage, the manager sits in his leather chair, doing business. A
Saudi client is quoted $500 for one of the girls. Eventually he beats
it down to $300. Next door, in a dimly lit room, the next shift of
girls arrives, taking off the black all-covering abayas they wear
outside and putting on lipstick and mascara.
To judge from the cars parked outside, the clients come from all over
the Gulf region - many are young Saudi men escaping from an even more
conservative moral climate. But the Syrian friend who has brought me
here tells me that 95 per cent of the girls are Iraqi.
Most are unwilling to talk, but Zahra, an attractive girl with a bare
midriff and tattoos, tells me she's 16. She has been working in this
club since fleeing to Syria from Baghdad after the war. She doesn't
like it, she says, "but what can we do? I hope things get better in
Iraq, because I miss it. I want to go back, but I have to look after
my sister". Zahra points to a thin, pubescent girl with long black
hair, who seems to be dancing quite happily. Aged 13, Nadia started in
the club two months ago.
As the girls dance suggestively, allowing their breasts to brush
against each other, one winks at a customer. But these girls are not
just providing the floor show - they have paid to be here, and they
need to pick up a client, or they'll lose money. If successful,
they'll earn about $60, equivalent to a month's wages in a factory.
There are more than a million Iraqi refugees in Syria, many are women
whose husbands or fathers have been killed. Banned from working
legally, they have few options outside the sex trade. No one knows how
many end up as prostitutes, but Hana Ibrahim, founder of the Iraqi
women's group Women's Will, puts the figure at 50,000.
I met Fatima in a block of flats operating informally as a brothel in
Saida Zainab, a run-down area with a large Iraqi population. Millions
of Shias go there every year, because of the shrine of the prophet
Mohamed's granddaughter. "I came to Syria after my husband was killed,
leaving me with two children," Fatima tells me. "My aunt asked me to
join her here, and my brothers pressured me to go." She didn't realise
the work her aunt did, and she would be forced to take up, until she
Fatima is in her mid-20s, but campaigners say the number of Iraqi
children working as prostitutes is high. Bassam al-Kadi of Syrian
Women Observatory says: "Some have been sexually abused in Iraq, but
others are being prostituted by fathers and uncles who bring them here
under the pretext of protecting them. They are virgins, and they are
brought here like an investment and exploited in a very ugly way."
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