Cablegate: Unami Humanitarian Situation Update in Iraq

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

281244Z Jun 04



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. SUMMARY: United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq
(UNAMI) reps warned of a looming humanitarian crisis this
summer in southern Iraq in a June 24 humanitarian situation
update. These warnings tempered the announcement of the
United Nations Development Group's (UNDG) approval of 17
infrastructure and humanitarian projects worth 232 million
USD. In preparation for the June 30 transfer of sovereignty
to the Iraq Interim Government (IIG), UNAMI and humanitarian
partners are engaging in contingency planning to assess the
abilities of various UN agencies and NGOs to respond to
sudden humanitarian emergencies. End Summary.


2. UNAMI rep Wojtek Wilk warned of a deteriorating
humanitarian situation in Basra this summer. Shortages of
electricity, water, and fuel would be the principal causes of
the perceived looming crisis, he said. UNAMI expects that
the availability of electricity will decrease further this
summer due to the increased usage of air conditioners and
refrigerators. This would further strain the electricity
system in the south. Furthermore, UNAMI predicts a severe
water shortage in southern Iraq. According to UNAMI, the
shortage is expected to worsen throughout the summer due to a
reduction in the potable water supply and lack of back-up
generators to operate purification and pumping plants. Wilk
cited as additional problems the low output of the sweetwater
canal in southern Iraq and increasing salinity levels in the
Shatt al-Arab. UNAMI fears that as the water situation in
the south worsens, Iraqis will turn to contaminated
underground water. Overall, according to UNAMI, the water
and electricity shortages during the summer would affect 4.5
million residents in the southern governates, with Basra
suffering the worst. UNAMI estimates that Basra's water
output will not reach pre-war levels until, at least, the end
of 2004.


3. UNAMI's perceptions of a looming humanitarian crisis
tempered UNDG rep Tetsuo Kondo's announcement during the
meeting of UNDG's approval of 17 infrastructure and
humanitarian assistance projects in Iraq, totalling 232
million USD. The bulk of the projects are devoted to
infrastructure and housing, agriculture, water resources and
the environment. Four projects focus on education and
culture. All 17 projects have been cleared with the Iraq
Ministry of Planning (MOP) in Iraq with the understanding
that U.N. international staff would not be on the ground.
Kondo also stressed the need to maximize the use of Iraqi
expertise in implementing the projects and to develop better
mechanisms to coordinate efforts with the MOP.


4. According to Wilk, the UN, led by UNAMI, and humanitarian
partners are engaged in contingency planning exercises to
prepare for the June 30 transfer of soveregnty to the IIG.
The exercises are aimed at assessing the ability of various
UN agencies to respond to sudden humanitarian emergencies,
with a particular focus on the transport of potable water,
food provided by the Public Distribution System (PDS), and
medical supplies.

5. Baghdad minimize considered.

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