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What UNICEF said at today’s UN briefing


What UNICEF said at today’s UN briefing

"... in Basra there is the very real possibility now of child deaths, from the conflict, but also from diarrhoea and dehydration. We estimate that at least 100,000 children under the age of five are at risk. "

Briefing by Geoff Keele, UNICEF Communication Officer, IRAQ

UNICEF staff in Iraq were at work today focusing on the urgent need for clean water in city hospitals across Baghdad.

The importance of access to clean water is very much in the forefront of UNICEF action, as the lead agency for water in this emergency.

Frequent power cuts and the consequent cutting of water supplies to Iraq's second biggest city, Basra, is of considerable concern to UNICEF. This is the third day that reports say Basra has had limited water. The Wafa Al-Quaid water treatment plant provides 40 per cent of Basra's water needs, and feeds the Al Zubair Hospital. Currently, the plant is only partially functioning.

There must now be a threat of disease as tens of thousands of people in their homes, hospitals and care institutions attempt to cope and find what water they can from the river and other sources. Unfortunately the river is also where sewage is dumped.

UNICEF has repeatedly warned that bad water costs lives, especially among the most vulnerable, and the children of Iraq are some of the most vulnerable people in the world. Not only are they suffering from high malnutrition rates, in Basra there is the very real possibility now of child deaths, from the conflict, but also from diarrhoea and dehydration. We estimate that at least 100,000 children under the age of five are at risk.

UNICEF is currently looking at ways to provide emergency water provision as soon as conditions allow.

Over the past few years UNICEF has completely rehabilitated 37 water treatment plants, 23 compact water treatment units, ten sewerage facilities, benefiting 8.6 million people. These activities also included one of the main water treatment and sewage plants in Basra.

Today in Baghdad the UNICEF team has had talks with other agencies to look at priorities for action. One of the areas identified is the urgent need for emergency water tanks at city hospitals.


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