1. Baghdad, 3. Diyala, 5. Maysan, 6. Basra, 10. Babil, 11. Karbala, 12. Najaf are the provinces with confirmed cases of cholera
On September 7, 2008, the first news of a cholera outbreak in Iraq was announced in the western media. Then there were two deaths in Babil province, and 250 cases of diarrhea that could be cholera. By September 17, Iraq’s Health Ministry said there were 107 confirmed cases: 64 in Babil, 24 in Baghdad, 14 in Karbala, two in Najaf, and one each in Basra, Diyala, and Maysan. There were also unconfirmed reports in Anbar. Just three days before there were only 68 confirmed cases. So far there have been five deaths as well, two in Baghdad, two in Babil, and one in Maysan. A few members of parliament have said that the outbreak is much larger, with up to 1,000 deaths and thousands of cases, but the Health Ministry say these are wild exaggerations. Cholera is a disease caused by drinking contaminated water that leads to diarrhea, and in extreme cases, death. Rural areas have been hit the hardest because of a lack of infrastructure. Iraq is also facing one of the worst droughts in decades, making people desperate to find water, even if it has not been properly treated.
The central and provincial governments have launched treatment and prevention campaigns in response, but have also been widely criticized. The Health Ministry has focused upon immediate treatment, handing out chlorine pills used to clean water, and a public relations program to warn people about the outbreak. Babil, the hardest hit province, has declared a state of emergency to deal with the crisis. The provinces of Dhi Qar, Wasit, and Diwaniyah also set up pre-emptive measures to try to stem the spread of cholera. At the same time, Iraq’s lack of pipes, sanitation, and other infrastructure have been blamed as the root causes of the outbreak. A high official in Babil’s Health Directorate for example blamed Iraq’s services recently, while the province’s governor said there were 30 water projects there that were not working properly. The World Health Organization said the lack of adequate water treatment plants was a major cause. In Babil, three officials were arrested for incompetence when the outbreak started.
In 2007, Iraq had its last case of cholera. Then it affected over 3,100 people and killed fourteen. It was spread across Sulaimaniyah, Irbil, Dohuk, Salahaddin, Ninewa, Diyala, Wasit, Baghdad, Anbar, with Kirkuk in Tamim province at the center of it all.
Money should not be a problem for Baghdad to deal with this situation. As usual, it all comes down to the implementation. Can the central government effectively coordinate its efforts with the provinces, and the provinces with the cities and towns? This has been a major problem in the past.
Agence France Presse, “Iraqi province on laert for cholera outbreak,” 9/8/08
Ali, Kadhem, “1,000 feared dead of Cholera in Iraq,” Azzaman, 9/15/08
Babylon & Beyond Blog, “IRAQ: Lots of rivers, not enough water,” Los Angeles Times, 9/7/08
CBS/AP, “New Cholera Outbreak Hits Iraq,” 9/8/08
IRIN, “Cholera claims five lives,” 9/11/08
- “Cholera continues to spread in the south,” 9/14/08
- “Confirmed cholera cases exceed 100,” 9/17/08
- “Two more cholera cases confirmed,” 9/8/08
KUNA, “Cholera claims lives of 2 out of 7 in Fallujah, with 4 more cases in Karbala,” 9/13/08
- “Twenty-one cholera cases confirmed in Baghdad,” 9/13/08
Voices of Iraq, “Cholera outbreak rings alarm bells in three southern Iraqi provinces,” 9/12/08
- “Security forces detain 3 local officials over Cholera outbreak in Babil,” 9/10/08
World Health Organization, “Cholera in Iraq,” 9/10/08