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News note

IRAQ: Cleaning up neglected, damaged water system, clearing away garbage

BAGHDAD, 27 May 2003 - UNICEF recently supported an assessment of Baghdad’s water distribution network. The survey was conducted by staff from the Mayoralty of Baghdad water authorities. They found that 40 per cent of the network was damaged, and that there were over 500 separate “breaks” in the distribution system. Estimates are that up to 50 per cent of the city’s water supply is lost as a result of these breaks.

Some of the damage is directly attributable to the war. It is important to understand that the pipes were extremely decayed as a result of years of neglect. When the war began the shocks that the bombing sent through the ground caused the pipes to burst in weak spots. Also, as the tanks rumbled through the streets, vibrations also caused the weakened pipes to split, spilling their cargo. Lastly, looters have also caused numerous breaks in the pipes in order to get at the water. They either pound or shoot holes in the pipe and take the water that gushes out.

To remedy this problem, UNICEF has awarded a contract to a local company to repair the breaks in the water network, which consists of hundreds of kilometres of pipes.

UNICEF is also supporting 15,000 Baghdad Water Authority staff who kept working throughout the war and the chaos that followed with a one-off salary payment. This is to reimburse them for the two months they worked without pay and to show our appreciation for the work they did under extremely difficult circumstances.

During the 1991 Gulf War, there were rolling “water blackouts”. This meant that people would get water in their homes for one day, and then they would have to do without for the next four days. This created many problems, as people could not bathe their children, wash their dishes, or clean their clothes. However, due to the commitment of the water authority staff during the latest conflict, many citizens of Baghdad never had to go a day without water pouring from their taps, even if it was not drinkable. This is an extraordinary feat.

UNICEF is currently distributing a total of 800,000 litres a day of water within Baghdad. Most of the water is going to the districts of Hai Tariq, Al-Urfali, Hai Rasheed, and Bowiya. We are also delivering water to selected hospitals, child care institutions and schools. In the south, an average of 79 tankers are bringing fresh water into Iraq every day from Kuwait. This provides nearly 2.5 million litres of clean water to Iraqis each day.

UNICEF is also supporting a number of municipalities in cleaning up the huge piles of refuse that have built up on their streets since the collapse of municipal services two months ago. The programme will begin in Adhamiya and Rusapha Central municipalities, Adhamiya covers 126 square kilometres, while Rusapha Central is home to more than 600,000 people. This number swells each day to more than one million, as Rusapha Central is a large commercial and industrial area.

UNICEF’s support will firstly go towards the removal of the huge piles of garbage that have amassed, and then towards daily household level collection in the near future. UNICEF will also provide similar support to Rasheed municipality, which covers 38 per cent of the total area of Baghdad. The support for these three municipalities will last for 30 days and cost US $200,000.


For more information on UNICEF activities in the areas of child Health, Nutrition, Water, Education, Sanitation and Child Protection, please contact:

Geoffrey Keele, UNICEF Iraq, (Sat.) 873-762-86-9918, (Th.) 882-165-420-1806, gkeele@unicef.org





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