Basra’s water crisis: Why does the health minister need to mislead?

Iraqi Health and Environment Minister Adila Hamoud was not obliged to provide misleading information about the health situation in Basra, which has declined due to the scarcity of water and the poisoned water. The health crisis had pushed the government to dispatch a ministerial delegation to Basra to look into the health and environmental situation and find solutions.

Contrary to reality, in a press conference on Saturday in Basra, Mrs. Hamoud underestimated the gravity of the situation in the governorate whose council members demanded that the governorate be declared stricken. The minister said all the documented illnesses are “simple or moderate” and are limited to stomach cramps and diarrhea, which around 1,500 people suffer from.

Then she turned her back with her companions and returned to Baghdad without bothering to stay a few more days in the governorate to at least sooth the afflicted citizens and to confirm that the situation is as rosy as she painted it.

The minister’s statements oppose the facts, which governmental apparatuses in Basra declared. Two days after she made these statements, Director General of the Basra Health Department Riad Abdul Amir announced that the number of those poisoned in Basra has increased to 12,000

Adnan Hussein

Heightened pollution, bacteria

The minister’s statements oppose the facts, which governmental apparatuses in Basra declared. Two days after she made these statements, Director General of the Basra Health Department Riad Abdul Amir announced that the number of those poisoned in Basra has increased to 12,000 and confirmed that Basra “is living through a real environmental crisis as a result of water pollution and particularly the increase of the salinity ratio.” He added that the areas where poisoning happened the most are Shatt al-Arab, the governorate’s center, Abu Al-Khaseeb and Al Hartha.

The health control division in the Basra Health Department also said the rate of pollution is “extremely high” as chemical contamination has reached 100% and bacterial contamination reached 50%.

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Before that, the Commission on Human Rights said in a statement that it documented an increase in cases of diarrhea and skin and cancer diseases in Basra as a result of the polluted drinking water.

Moreover, the commission urged citizens in Basra to “file complaints against the ministries which caused these environmental and health violations in Basra.” Activists on social media networks shared photos and videos that show how some rivers in Basra have been transformed into waste bins. Some of these rivers’ water has turned pink! Did the health minister see that?

On Monday, a local source in Basra said more than 8,000 cases of bacterial poisoning have been documented among citizens across Basra as a result of the contaminated water. He said those who fell ill are sleeping on the floor in hospitals amid the lack of medicine. He added that “water throughout Basra is contaminated with salt, bacteria, trash and sewage water.”

It’s clear that the health and environment ministry is incapable of resolving the deteriorating situation due to administrative and financial corruption. Those involved in corruption have over the course of 15 years seized billions of dollars from the budgets allocated to developmental plans and projects to provide general services.

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Professionally, since the health minister is a doctor, and politically since she is a minister who represents a party in the government, she should have resigned as long as she and her ministry are incapable of devising quick solutions to the problem.

For the purpose of comparison, earlier this week, French Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot, who is one of the most famous and loved figures in Macron’s government, resigned and said his decision was due to an “accumulation of disappointments” due to the lack of advancement in measures to address climate change, protect biodiversity and tackle other environmental threats. That’s how he put it.

There is such a huge difference between our minister’s stance and the French minister’s stance!

This article is also available in Arabic.

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Adnan Hussein is the executive editor-in-chief of Al-Mada newspaper and head of the National Union of Iraqi journalists. Previously, he has held the position of Managing Editor in Asharq al-Awsat newspaper. He tweets under the handle @adnanhussein.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:52 - GMT 06:52
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