Cablegate: Dart Assessment of Samawah
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 KUWAIT 002133
STATE ALSO PASS USAID/W
STATE PLEASE REPEAT TO IO COLLECTIVE
STATE FOR PRM/ANE, EUR/SE, NEA/NGA, IO AND SA/PAB
NSC FOR EABRAMS, SMCCORMICK, STAHIR-KHELI, JDWORKEN
USAID FOR USAID/A, DCHA/AA, DCHA/RMT, DCHA/FFP
USAID FOR DCHA/OTI, DCHA/DG, ANE/AA
USAID FOR DCHA/OFDA:WGARVELINK, BMCCONNELL, KFARNSWORTH
USAID FOR ANE/AA:WCHAMBERLIN
ROME FOR FODAG
GENEVA FOR RMA AND NKYLOH
ANKARA FOR AMB WRPEARSON, ECON AJSIROTIC AND DART
AMMAN FOR USAID AND DART
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREF IZ WFP
SUBJECT: DART ASSESSMENT OF SAMAWAH
1. DART Field Team West visited Samawah, the capital of Al
Muthanna governorate on 15 May. Overall, vital services in
the city appear to be operating at pre-war levels.
Electricity and water remain sporadic. Hospitals and public
health centers are operating, schools are open, stores and
markets are busy, and local government has been re-
established. The DART held separate meetings with the
city's deputy mayor, representatives for the French NGO,
Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED),
and Coalition forces. End Summary.
MEETING WITH SAMAWAH DEPUTY MAYOR
2. The DART met with the newly selected Deputy Mayor of
Samawa, a recently returned Iraqi exile who was selected by
the city council approximately three weeks ago. The council
meets twice a week, and the Deputy Mayor meets three times a
week with Coalition personnel.
3. The Deputy Mayor informed the DART that electricity,
which comes from An Nasiriyah, is sporadic. Sometimes it
runs all day; on other days it only runs between three and
four hours per day. (Note: This was confirmed in
subsequent interviews with ACTED, local population, and
Coalition forces. End Note.) This, in turn, means that the
water system only functions sporadically. According to the
Deputy Mayor, this problem existed before the war, but now
people's expectations are higher. He stated, "Now the
people ask for more because they have the freedom to talk."
4. The city has one general hospital and one
maternal/pediatric hospital. There are 28 public health
centers in Al Muthana governorate. All are operating and
have basic medical supplies. (Note: The DART did not visit
local health facilities due to time constraints, but relied
instead on information from the Deputy Mayor, ACTED, and
Coalition forces. End Note.)
5. Government services and systems are beginning to resume
function, and the Deputy Mayor reported that salaries have
been paid. The USD 20 emergency stipend was also being
paid, and the DART witnessed the payment process at city
hall. Garbage collection is also taking place, although at
reduced capacity due to the looting of some of the garbage
trucks. The criminal justice system is functioning. The
city council has selected three new judges who are
processing old cases. The local police force is also
functioning. Schools re-opened at the beginning of May.
The former regime had used 17 of the schools as ammunition
dumps, but Coalition forces have cleared all of these
schools of unexploded ordnance (UXO). The local university
is scheduled to re-open on 17 May.
6. A local sheik has funded the establishment of a local
television station and a local weekly newspaper. A crew
from the local television station was present during the
entire interview, and the event was filmed for the evening
news. The newspaper also showed up later to photograph the
7. The public distribution system (PDS) is in place and
distributions are scheduled to resume at the beginning of
June. There is a shortage of LPG cooking gas, but kerosene
is available and "affordable", according to the Deputy Mayor
and others present in the meeting. The Deputy Mayor listed
as priorities improvements to the chronic problems of
electricity, water, and sewage.
ACTED'S RECOMMENDED INTERVENTIONS
8. ACTED representatives based in Samawah offered the DART
their opinions of the city and governorate's main problems
in water, sanitation, health, and agriculture, and potential
emergency solutions for water and sanitation. Overall, most
problems in Samawah are chronic rather than symptoms caused
by the war, according to ACTED. However, residents were apt
to complain because their expectations of Coalition-led
improvements were great.
9. The water from the Euphrates and most of the
governorate's water tables and canals is too salty for human
consumption. Samawah's drinking water flows through a
faulty pipeline to its water-treatment center (WTC) from a
source located 20 kilometers to the north where there is a
pumping station and a WTC. There are two compact units
midway in the pipeline that sends water to 10 to 15
villages. Most villages in Al Muthanna are not on the
pipeline and receive tankered water on an irregular basis.
10. ACTED proposes four immediate interventions: 1) repair
the leakage on the main pipeline that reduces capacity by 20
percent; 2) improve the capacity of the WTCs in Ar Rumaythah
and Samawa, and the pumping station in Ar Rumaythah; 3)
rehabilitate the two compact units; and 4) develop a
comprehensive and regular rural water-distribution system
using tankers. Some looted tankers would need to be
replaced and others added to reach full coverage.
11. With no sewage-sewer system, raw waste flows directly
into the Euphrates River via the storm-sewer system. Many
neighborhoods rely on septic-system networks for every three
to four thousand people; however, some systems are blocked
and others not functioning. ACTED proposes the following
sanitation interventions for Samawah: 1) clean the storm-
sewer system's pumping station and tanks that are filled
with sedimentation; 2) make emergency repairs and remove
overflowing waste from a particular neighborhood's septic
system that is faulty and is causing a health hazard; 3)
temporarily rent trucks to replace looted garbage trucks to
carry out solid-waste disposal; and 4) implement a rural
sanitation education program, promoting improved latrines
and sanitary methods.
12. ACTED found Samawah's two hospitals to be relatively
modern, "impressive," and with good doctors, athough they
lacked some basic medicines, oxygen, and blood-testing
capacity. The hospitals also needed general maintenance.
The biggest problem for children was diarrhea, and for
adults, chest infections. There were unsubstantiated fears
of typhoid fever, malaria, and cholera. The one primary
health center ACTED visited lacked all basic drugs. UXOs
were a serious rural, but not urban, problem.
13. Al Muthanna is slowly losing arable land as salty water
and poor irrigation erodes soil fertility, causing an
increasing rural livelihood problem. This month, Al
Muthanna wheat farmers face calamity as the stalled Oil for
Food Program (OFF) prevents the purchase of local crops.
Farmers harvested their wheat earlier this month and are
storing it in their silos, unable to sell it to dealers who
would normally sell it to the government. Al Muthanna
wheat, nearly the sole crop in Al Muthanna, yields a paltry
150 kilograms per "doneem," or quarter hectare. It comes in
two varieties: 1) "Mastaback" wheat for human consumption;
and 2) "scheen" wheat for animals. Before the war, farmers
had no incentive to diversify or seek other livelihood
initiatives because they became dependent on the OFF.
MEETING WITH COALITION FORCES
14. The DART spoke briefly with Coalition forces, who
reported that a mass grave, containing between 100 and 600
bodies, was found ten days ago on the outskirts of Samawah.
When uncovered, many, if not all seemed to have been
executed, including women and children. Some had bullet
holes in their heads and others were bound and blindfolded.
The site is being secured 24 hours a day, seven days a week
by Coalition forces. Asking if there is tension amongst the
community because of Coalition presence at the site, the
DART was told that the locals have usually been appreciative
of any military presence accorded to them.
15. Coalition forces are also working on the local justice
system in Samawah. Three judges were appointed on 8 May by
the attorneys union and are currently trying cases. Out of
seventeen judges, sixteen were fired because of their close
connection to the Ba'ath Party and history of corruption.
Interestingly, because the laws significantly changed when
Saddam Hussein took over leadership of Iraq (generally not
for the better), the Coalition appointment letter to the
judges specifically includes language that states "You are
charged to enforce the good and just laws of the Iraqi