Apr. 19, 2005 – Untreated sewage flowing through the streets of Baghdad has led to an increase in the number of cases of hepatitis there, raising new fears among health officials that a major outbreak of the disease is imminent.
Dr. Abdul Jalil, director of the Iraqâ€™s Infectious Diseases Control Center, told IRIN, the United Nations humanitarian news service, that there had been a 30 percent increase in hepatitis cases in March 2005 compared to the same period in 2004. He said open sewers and polluted water were causing the problem to worsen. Dr. Jalil said he expects a possible outbreak in the suburbs of Baghdad because sewage systems have not been restored in many neighborhoods. The extreme heat of summer is also expected to intensify the spread of hepatitis and other water borne diseases in the coming months.
"The system of sanitation in the capital should be fixed quickly," Jalil told IRIN. "The Ministry of Public Works is moving slowly to solve this problem, and itâ€™s affecting the health of Iraqis," he added.
According to a recent State Department report, reconstruction of Iraqâ€™s sewage treatment systems and other civilian infrastructure is badly behind schedule due largely to faulty contracting procedures established by US-led occupation authorities in Iraq, mismanagement on the part of both contractors and occupation officials, the strength of the armed insurgency, and the dilapidated state of Iraqi facilities after more than a decade of extreme economic sanctions and war.