Iraqi PM makes first visit to protest-hit Basra

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Iraqi premier Adel Abdel Mahdi visited Basra Sunday, his first trip as prime minister to the southern province where lagging services spawned a water crisis and deadly protests last summer.

Abdel Mahdi’s office said he visited several infrastructure and service projects in the oil-rich province, including water provision services in the Shatt al-Arab area.

“He called for redoubled efforts so these projects can be accomplished as quickly as possible,” his office said.

In the summer of 2018, an unprecedented water crisis in Basra left 100,000 people hospitalized and sparked a massive protest movement that resulted in a dozen dead.

The provincial capital is still rocked by demonstrations every Friday demanding more access to drinking water, steady electricity and jobs for unemployed youth.

After his appointment in October, Abdel Mahdi pledged to present a plan to fulfil these demands within his first 100 days in office.

But it has yet to be announced and the premier is still struggling to finalize the formation of his cabinet.

The real test, observers say, will be Iraq’s sweltering summer months, when temperatures rise to more than 50 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit) and shortages of water and electricity can be life-threatening.

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