Analysis: Iraq's Other Dirty Water
Council on Foreign Relations
October 12, 2007
Prepared by: Toni Johnson
Cholera is a bacterial infection that causes diarrhea and rapid dehydration, and can lead to death. Risks of cholera epidemics increase when poverty, war, or disasters force people into crowded conditions with poor sanitation. In 2006, the WHO reported (PDF) more than 240,000 cases of cholera worldwide, including more than six thousand deaths. The majority of cases occurred in Africa. In Iraq, a lack of clean water—a chief culprit for spreading the illness—makes it hard for health officials to halt the outbreak.
Some health experts point to restrictions on chlorine—a chemical widely used to disinfect water—which have grown tighter since insurgents began using chlorine on trucks in bombing attacks (al-Jazeera) in the spring of 2007. Earlier this year, UN agencies noted that Iraq still relied on the United Nations to provide the majority of the country’s chlorine and other water-treatment chemicals, and pointed out that “administrative bottlenecks” (PDF) were preventing the government from using its “largely unspent resources” to address the issue.
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