UN humanitarian briefing in Amman, Jordan
Fadela Chaib, WHO spokeswoman
Water shortage in Basrah
24 March 2003 - We have received reports that, due to failure of the local power system, Basrah has been left without potable water. Teams from the International Committee of the Red Cross have managed to restore the service for approximately 40% of the population. This will only partially and temporarily cover the needs of the 1.7 million people of Basrah. WHO is worried about the impact that the lack of access to potable and clean water will have on the health situation, which could deteriorate quickly.
The three major killers of children are acute lower respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, diarrhea, and measles. These conditions account for 70% of deaths in children under five years of age. Diarrhea-related diseases are the second cause of mortality among children under the age of five. Re-hydration is one of the most efficient and cost-effective measures, but the use of re-hydration salts requires clean water. Dysentery and diphtheria could also be a major health problem. In previous, similar situations in Iraq, diarrhea diseases have accounted for 25 to 40% of deaths during the acute phase of the emergency, with 80% of deaths in under-two-year olds. Women and children will be the most affected groups.
WHO has opened a sub-office that is walking distance from the Jordanian hospital of Ruwaished. A team of 4 WHO staff is already there. This is a referral hospital and is the first entry point for the potential refugees coming from Iraq. It has an operating theatre and a delivery room. WHO has provided one health kit for 10 000 people for 3 months. A large amount of drugs for chronic diseases will soon be available. In coordination with the Jordanian Ministry of Health, a first batch of vaccine has arrived and is stored at the hospital warehouse. More will arrive from Amman when needed. Health screening of refugees will take place at the Jordanian Karama health clinic where rapid assessment forms will be used for this purpose.