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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

IRAQ: Focus on election outcome

BAGHDAD , 15 February 2005 (IRIN) –


Since the announcement on Sunday of election results from Iraqi's 30 January poll, showing the United Alliance party, backed by Shi'ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, as the winner with 48 percent of the vote, with the Kurdish parties following with some 26 percent, the pressure is now on for the new government to improve the lives of ordinary Iraqis. Local people are now asking when their country will return to normality and how quickly the authorities will be able to provide basic facilities still lacking in many parts of the country.


As well as security, education in Iraq is one of the sectors most Iraqis want to see more improvements in. According to education experts in the country, there has been a decline in the quality of education and support by the government since the conflict in 2003. There has been inadequate repair work on schools and much more is needed as basics such as books and computers are still missing, according to teachers. Dr Youssef Kareem, a teacher at the medical college of Baghdad University, told IRIN that they were still using the same old materials and equipment as under the last regime, while some of it had been stolen but not yet replaced. "We need books for our students, but the government said that there was not enough security to bring in books from outside the country. This is really funny. How long will we hear excuses?" he asked. Kareem said that he and his colleagues were expecting much from the new government, and that if they invested in higher education, Iraq would be able to offer the best services to students, since they already have very good staff on board. "We need books and air conditioning. The summer is coming and until now we haven't received these materials in our school. I don't want to ask for anything from this new government, but they just must open their eyes to see important issues that the last government ignored and remember that by investing in education they are investing in Iraq's future," Hiba Abdul Hassan, a teacher at Mansour primary school, told IRIN. Children's education in the country has been heavily dependant on support from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), among other aid organisations, since the last war. Last year UNICEF managed to deliver US $80 million of aid to children in Iraq - often in extremely dangerous and difficult circumstances. According to the Ministry of Education (MoE), nearly 65 million textbooks are required to be printed to cover primary and secondary schools countrywide. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID)had printed until last year 8.7 million maths and science textbooks and distributed them to primary and secondary schools, but officials complain that requirements are seven times higher. Nidal Fadel, a spokesman for the MoE, told IRIN that he believed the new government would move to improve the credibility of the education system in the country. "We recreated the base of a totally destroyed educational system in the country and now the new government will take the finishing step and will certainly offer what people need in this sector," Fadel added.


One of the most affected areas after the US-led war in Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein was the health system, according to government officials. Doctors throughout hospitals in the capital complained of a lack in electricity and clean water. They also added that many foreign companies which started working in hospitals had pulled out and new equipment promised had yet to reach them. Dr Amer Rashid, chief clinician from Yarmouk hospital in the capital, told IRIN that their generators broke down frequently and that they faced difficulties in opening their intensive care treatment unit since they needed machines working 24 hours a day. "Promises and promises are what we are receiving every day from this government and we hope that the coming one can afford the minimum of health quality for Iraqis," Rashid added. "During sanctions we had more medicines than we have now. I just want to understand where the improvements are. We have lost patients because we couldn't afford power in the theatre," he stressed. A shortage of medicine is still the main problem throughout the country. Doctors and pharmacists claim that simple medication such as pain killers and antibiotics are unavailable and sometimes they run out of needles and syringes. "The new government should provide quality to the health system and [if they do] it will certainly give a good impression to the people," Haydar al-Sinawi, pharmacist at Karama hospital in Baghdad , told IRIN. The International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) in a press statement in January also complained of a shortage of medicines in all Iraqi hospitals and problems caused by the lack of water and electricity. Dr Amer al-Huzay, deputy minister of health, told IRIN that US $1 billion had been allocated from the $18.6 billion that Washington set aside for reconstruction. Al-Huzay added that requests took more than three months to be answered by the US Coalition forces responsible for the allocation of the reconstruction money. "We don't have the control of the money in our hands, I hope the new government can have the power to act without having to ask someone else," he urged.


Other basic needs lacking are power and water. Iraqis are suffering with less than eight hours of electricity daily, and most people cannot afford generators. However, electricity production reached 5,365 megawatts in August 2004, according to USAID compared to pre-war level of 4,400 MW. Ministry of Public Works officials told IRIN that a lot of work would be required by the new government to cover the deficit in the country. They acknowledged that some basic infrastructure is lacking, that streets needed to be repaired and that electricity and water shortages should receive better attention. "We can say that practically all the streets of the capital need to be repaired in addition to changing the whole electrical wiring system. We have a very good project for this year that we believe will be implemented by the new government," Sawsam Mehdy, a senior officer at the ministry said. He added that huge investment was needed and that security would play an important role, since recent attacks by insurgents had slowed down work. Later this year, schools, hospitals and government buildings are to receive a direct and constant power supply, he added. On the water front, UNICEF has supplied around 2 million litres of clean water each day for Iraqi children and families in need. "We've actually tankered in water in fleets, even in the most volatile areas such as Fallujah, Mosul and Sadr City in Baghdad," UNICEF's representative for Iraq, Roger Wright, said. "We've guaranteed a minimum amount of drinking water available in even the worst possible security scenarios." USAID recently completed a $4.1 million refurbishment of the Kirkuk unified water treatment plant in the north of the country, benefiting over one million residents of the city and its surroundings. Prior to the USAID's refurbishment, the plant did not consistently produce potable water because of system failures and operational deficiencies. Following a year of re-engineering, it is now capable of delivering just over 400 million litres of potable water daily and will permanently employ some 100 Iraqis. "Iraqis don't want much. They will be patient with the new government if they offer the essential needs for our lives," Um Bashar, a resident of Yarmouk district, told IRIN. "I'm from a Sunni family but I'm happy that Shi'ite groups have won the election because they felt the needs in the past and now they will try to cover this deficiency," she added. The majority Shi'ite population were neglected under the regime of Saddam Hussein, himself a Sunni Muslim. But for ordinary Iraqis this help cannot come soon enough. "We just want a better life for our families. The rest will come with a good government," Shamis Shmaysan, a primary school teacher in Baghdad, told IRIN.

Themes: (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Economy, (IRIN) Education, (IRIN) Governance, (IRIN) Health & Nutrition


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