Humanitarian Crisis looms in Basra
Reuters reports that a high UN official has raised the specter of a serious humanitarian crisis (i.e. lots of people dying) in Basra this summer. The problem is that there is only half as much potable water as people need for a population of 1.3 million, and the temperature has soared to 50 C / 122 F. Reuters writes:
“We are confronting a potential serious humanitarian crisis,” Ross Mountain, acting special representative of the U.N. Secretary General for Iraq, told Reuters in Amman on Thursday.
“We have no indication that there is anywhere else in the country that is facing this kind of crisis. Nobody is facing 50 degree (Celsius) temperatures with less than half the supply of water required … There is nowhere as bad as the Basra area.”
Lack of potable water in a city like Basra can cause large numbers of deaths in several ways. Simple e. coli bacteria in the water can give babies and small children diarrhea so bad that they can easily die of it if parents don’t know how to keep them hydrated (spoonfuls of filtered, boiled water with sugar and salt in it will usually work). You could also get a cholera epidemic and hepatitis. And, if people run out of boiled water because they lack or can’t afford fuel to prepare more, they can be driven by the 122 temperatures to risk drinking bad water.