Poor water quality, spread of malnutrition and disease

Poor water quality, spread of malnutrition and disease
2002. Al-Jumhuriya neighbourhood, Basra. Photograph: José Manuel Rambla © José Manuel Rambla

Poor water quality, spread of malnutrition and disease

This girl is literally flying over sewage in the very poor neighbourhood of Al-Jumhuriya, in Basra. Many preventable diseases and the infant deaths they produced were due to the collapse of the system for treating sewage. Before 1991, Iraq had a well-developed system of water supply and sewage treatment, with over 200 purification plants and 1,200 compact purification plants for rural areas, as well as an extensive network for water supply.

According to WHO, 90% of the population had access to drinking water before the sanctions, a percentage which fell to 50% in the cities and 33% in rural areas following the introduction of sanctions. This boosted the spread of infectious diseases and led to the reappearance of cholera which had been eradicated decades earlier.

The water treatment system depends on the electricity supply and the delivery of spare parts, both seriously affected after the war of 1991 and the sanctions.