Iraq: Activists Campaign to 'Save Basra', Health Ministry Denies Cholera Outbreaks

Iraqi protesters burn tires and block the road at the entrance to the city of Basra, Iraq July 12, 2018. (Reuters: Essam al-Sudani)
Iraqi protesters burn tires and block the road at the entrance to the city of Basra, Iraq July 12, 2018. (Reuters: Essam al-Sudani)
TT

Iraq: Activists Campaign to 'Save Basra', Health Ministry Denies Cholera Outbreaks

Iraqi protesters burn tires and block the road at the entrance to the city of Basra, Iraq July 12, 2018. (Reuters: Essam al-Sudani)
Iraqi protesters burn tires and block the road at the entrance to the city of Basra, Iraq July 12, 2018. (Reuters: Essam al-Sudani)

An online campaign launched by Iraqi activists and bloggers succeeded over the past few days in drawing attention to the water pollution crisis in the southern district of Basra.

Recent videos and photos went viral on social media showing dozens of poisoned patients in hospitals due to contamination of drinking water. This has prompted activists to launch "Save Basra" campaign which coincided with a wave of protests that have been taking place for weeks, expected to escalate after Adha Eid holiday into sit-ins and civil disobedience, activists informed Asharq Al-Awsat.

The Iraqi Health Ministry denied on Friday reports about purported spread of epidemics in Basra due to water contamination and said it had dispatched additional supplies of medicines to the province to cope with possible emergency.

The ministry also sent a team to review the reports and ensure that no communicable diseases' outbreak had taken place, Ministry Spokesman Saif al-Badr said.

The team had already confirmed that there is no sign of cholera outbreak, adding that the latest cases were "minor and moderate" and did not require hospitalization. However, Basra governor Asaad al-Eidani, strongly criticized the government, saying it did not respond to the demands of the people.

Basra Health Department confirmed that drinking water in over 70 percent of areas is polluted and unfit for human consumption.

Representative of High Religious Authority Ali al-Sistani dedicated Friday’s sermon to criticize the Iraqi government for failing to solve Basra's water problem.

"The human, patriotic and religious duties call on the authorities and relevant institutions to work together to put an end to the sufferings of the people of Basra," Abdul Mahdi Karbalai said.

The Representative called on the government to find a lasting solution for this water contamination problem.

Earlier in July, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited Basra accompanied by a large number of ministers, after several protests erupted in the city.

Abadi promised to meet all demands, however, Eidani complained in a statement that the city has been demanding in vain the federal government to transfer money to establish desalination stations.

Basra’s Human Rights Commission also warned that the conditions of the province are "dangerous" due to high salinity and increased pollution, accusing the federal government of not acting accordingly.

The Commission asked the government to declare Basra a “disaster area”.

Basra has the largest oil supply in Iraq, as oil experts indicate that it owns 15 out of 77 fields in the country, including 10 producing fields awaiting development. These fields can produce more than 65 billion barrels, about 59 percent of Iraq's oil reserves.



Sudan's RSF Agrees with UN on Steps to Ease Aid Delivery

Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
TT

Sudan's RSF Agrees with UN on Steps to Ease Aid Delivery

Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

Sudan's Rapid Support Forces agreed with the United Nations on some steps to ease aid delivery in areas under its control, a member of the RSF told Reuters on Thursday.

The Sudanese army has not reached any understandings on aid delivers with the RSF, he added. It is unclear if these steps could be implemented without the army's participation.

Meanwhile, a key supply route into Sudan's Darfur region, deemed at risk of famine by a global monitor, has been cut off due to heavy rains, a World Food Program official told Reuters on Thursday.
The UN agency has described Sudan as the world's biggest hunger crisis, with the western Darfur region most at risk as Sudan's 15-month civil war that has displaced millions and sparked ethnic violence grinds on.
WFP's Country Director Eddie Rowe said thousands of tons of aid are stranded at the Tina crossing on the Chad border, prompting the body to reopen talks with the army-aligned government to open an alternative, all-weather crossing further south called Adre.
"You have these huge rivers. As I speak now, our convoy, which is supposed to move over 2000 metric tons is stranded," he told Reuters from Port Sudan. Asked on the status of the talks that resumed this week, he said: "It's 50/50.”
WFP is now seeking clearances to move a large 70-truck convoy via a little-used, over 1000 kilometer route from Port Sudan to Darfur which Rowe said will involve crossing the battle lines of both the Sudan Armed Forces, the Rapid Support Forces and various militias.
He added that this mostly desert route has worked in the past but outside of the rainy season and that the last journey took weeks and was "fraught with a lot of challenges.”
In a separate interview, Mona Rishmawi, a member of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Sudan, told Reuters that she had met Darfur refugees in Chad who told her stories of escaping with virtually no water and eating grass along the route. "There's no doubt that people are starving," she said.