Wednesday, August 29, 2007


"Sickness comes on horseback but departs on foot."
~ Dutch proverb.

CNN has more on the cholera outbreak in Silêmanî province and Kerkuk:

"Local authorities report that over 2,000 people have been affected so far by the outbreak, with five deaths reported and 500 patients admitted to hospital with severe diarrhea within the last two days alone," said the U.N. Children's Fund, or UNICEF.

Forty-seven cases have been confirmed as epidemic cholera, but the number is expected to grow, said UNICEF, which has rushed emergency aid to the affected area.

The outbreak has hit the Sulaimaniya province and the nearby Kirkuk region in northern Iraq.

[ . . . ]

The outbreak is being attributed to "serious problems with water quality and sewage treatment" -- an assessment repeated by the U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq.

Only 30 percent of the population in Sulaimaniya has an adequate water supply, according to local reports, and "many people have been reduced to digging shallow wells outside their own homes," UNICEF said.

More from Scientific American:

Health officials said the source of infection in Sulaimaniya appeared to be polluted well water that residents were forced to rely on because of a shortage of drinking water. In Kirkuk, cracked water pipes had allowed contamination by sewage.

Visiting a hospital in Kirkuk, Othman said there were 2,000 suspected cholera cases in Sulaimaniya and 1,924 in Kirkuk.

Health officials in Sulaimaniya have shut down juice bars and ordered restaurants to stop serving vegetables that may have been washed in polluted water, Sherku Abdullah, the general director of the health office in Sulaimaniya, told Reuters.

Abdullah, who heads an emergency team set up to tackle the disease, said there were 35 confirmed cases in Sulaimaniya and six people had died. Othman put the death toll in the province at seven, with an eighth victim in Kirkuk.

He said there were 47 confirmed cases in Kirkuk.

Abdullah said Iraq's Health Ministry had sent 50 tons of medical supplies to the Kurdish region to fight the epidemic.

Dr. Sabah Hawrami, head of the educational hospital of Sulaimaniya, said most of the cholera patients had probably used well water for drinking because of a shortage of treated drinking water, a common problem in Iraq during summer.

Well water levels dropped in the summer months and could have mixed with sewage water.

A health alert issued by Kurdistan's Health Ministry has panicked people in Sulaimaniya. Many have stopped eating in restaurants for fear of becoming infected.

There is no Saddam Hussein to blame this kind of thing on anymore, is there? There is no racist Turkish government to blame this kind of thing on, is there? Where, then, does the blame lie? At whom should the finger be pointed?

Silêmanî now boasts about tourist projects but one has to wonder, in light of the "serious problems with water quality and sewage treatment," if there will be two separate water systems. One water system for tourists, equipped with the latest technology to ensure safe and sanitary water for the foreigners, while the locals are forced to endure the current lack of water sanitation.

All the locals, that is, except the ruling Talabanî clan and their close cronies in the PUK politburo.

As for the tourist industry, well, it simply wouldn't do for well-heeled tourists to make a run for it because they have a case of the runs, as a result of substandard infrastructure--much less would it do to have tourists exposed to the danger of cholera. Nor would it do to have such a thing happen to our hypothetical, hapless foreign tourists in Silêmanî, a city whose inhabitants pride themselves on their "culture."

While reports indicate that health officials are doing the best they can with the limitations imposed on them by the provincial government, maybe a lot less culture is needed in Silêmanî--along with a lot less greed on the part of the ruling PUK--to be exchanged for a greater level of humanity and common sense.


Anonymous said...

One has to wonder what is in the minds of PUK officials. Without Silemani to support them, what will they do? The people in Silemani have become fed up with their lack of attending to the residents' basic needs. If you visit Silemani, this is evident by the protests that take place in a given year.

Anonymous said...

Partly to blame and another part is they're just plain inexperienced. They are overlooking necessities because they think what's in place is good enough. Different than when Saddam or Turkey intentionally does it when cognizant of their negligence. We hope they learn from their mistakes and put their money where their mouth is.

Mizgîn said...

There is really no excuse for the failure to do some serious work on the water system. The director of the JHIC in Hewler told me that the water system was the most critical part of the infrastructure that needed to be taken care of. Obviously he was right.


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