Iraqis Lack Water, Healthcare: ICRC
Five years after the US invasion, the humanitarian situation in war-ravaged Iraq remains one of the most critical in the world, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a report released on Monday, March 17.
“Millions of Iraqis have insufficient access to clean water, sanitation and health care,” concluded the “Iraq: no let-up in the humanitarian crisis” report.
It said that water supply continues to deteriorate with some areas having no functioning water and sanitation facilities.
“Millions of people have been forced to rely on insufficient supplies of poor-quality water as water and sewage systems suffer from a lack of maintenance and a shortage of engineers.”
Many families are forced to spend at least a third of their monthly income to buy clean drinking water, said the ICRC.
It lamented that the health care system, once the pride of the region, has also deteriorated with hospitals lacking beds, drugs, and staff.
“Health care, water and sanitation services and electricity supplies remain largely inadequate,” said the report.
“Hospitals lack qualified staff and basic drugs, and therefore struggle to provide suitable care for the injured.
“Many health-care facilities have not been properly maintained, and the care they provide is often too expensive for ordinary Iraqis.”
Taha Abdel-Rahman, a Health Ministry media officer, told IslamOnlne.net this week that the government was unable to cope with the healthcare needs countrywide.
The five-year war and thirteen years of the most draconian embargo ever imposed by the UN after the 1991 bombing, led to disaster in a country which had imported – broadly – seventy percent of everything.
The pharmaceutical factories producing basics, including antibiotics, decreased production as investments nearly stopped.
Hospital equipments, X-ray machines, dialysis machines, scanners, instruments and theatre essentials need to be repaired or replaced.
The UN 1989 State of the Nations Report recorded Iraq as having over 90 percent access to “free high quality health care.”
For two years running, Iraq was awarded a special UN prize for its excellence.
The ICRC said that violence continued to have a disastrous impact on Iraqi civilians.
“Every day, Iraqis continue to be killed, often in indiscriminate attacks,” it regretted.
“Civilians continue to be killed in the hostilities. The injured often do not receive adequate medical care.”
The report said that tens of thousands of Iraqis have disappeared since the start of the US invasion.
“Many of those killed in the current violence have never been properly identified, because only a small percentage of the bodies have been turned over to Iraqi government institutions such as the Medical-Legal Institute in Baghdad.”
According to the World Health Organization and Iraqi Health Ministry, up to 151,000 civilians have been killed since 2003.
Research conducted by other polling groups, however, puts the death toll at a staggering one million people.
The ICRC called for more robust efforts to address the daily needs of the Iraqi civilians.
“To avert an even worse crisis, more attention must be paid to the everyday needs of Iraqis,” said Beatrice Megevand Roggo, the ICRC’s head of operations for the Middle East and North Africa.
In a similar report coinciding with the fifth anniversary of the war, Amnesty International depicted a gloomy picture of Iraq.
“Five years after the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, Iraq is one of the most dangerous countries in the world.”
The report, entitled “Carnage and Despair. Iraq Five Years On,” said law and order and economic recovery were a “distant prospect” with most Iraqis living in poverty, with food shortages, lack of access to safe drinking water and high unemployment.
More than four in 10 Iraqis lived on less than one US dollar a day — the UN standard for measuring poverty — while the health and education systems were at near collapse.
“Despite claims that the security situation has improved in recent months, the human rights situation is disastrous,” the London-based group said, citing kidnap, torture and murder of civilians.
Amnesty cited the detention of about 60,000 people by Iraqis and US forces, most of them without charge, insisting that torture and ill-treatment of detainees were “routine”.
It stressed that failure to investigate such abuses is one of the most worrying aspects for the future.
“Even when faced with overwhelming evidence of torture under their watch, the Iraqi authorities have failed to hold the perpetrators to account — and the US and its allies have failed to demand that they do so,” said the watchdog.
“All sides have committed gross human rights violations, including war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
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