On September 17, 2008, the Health and Nutrition Outcome Team of the United Nation’s World Health Organization (WHO) released a report on the cholera outbreak currently affecting Iraq. The study said there were a total of 12 deaths so far. Six were in Maysan, three in Babil, two in Baghdad, and one in Basra. There were an additional fifteen cases that were being looked into. There were also 161 confirmed cases of cholera as well. Babil province has been hit the hardest with 118 victims. Basra, Mayasan, Diyala, Najaf, Karbala, and Baghdad have also been affected across twenty districts total. The number of suspected cases is far above those that have been proven in labs. In Maysan for example, there is only one confirmed case compared with 138 suspected ones. The first case was reported on August 7 in Maysan.
Cholera, a water born ailment, is said to be quite common in Iraq. WHO said that there are approximately 600 such illnesses each year. The last outbreak occurred in 2007, costing the lives of fourteen people. After that, the WHO set up 950 sites to monitor water and health conditions. They issue reports twice a month.
The government has been providing medical help to those affected, along with a public relations campaign to educate the populace about what to do, while at the same time coming under criticism for its services. The chloride used in water purification plants, for example, was old and unusable, and the government is now waiting for a new supply from Jordan. On the other hand, over 2.5 million flyers and other papers have been handed out to the public to educate them about what to do during the crisis.
In 2007 during the last cholera epidemic, over 3,000 people were affected. So far, the 2008 outbreak hasn’t come close to that yet. Whether it does or not would be a good indicator of how well the government is coping with the situation.
Health and Nutrition Sector Outcome Team, “Situation Report on Diarrhea and Cholera in Iraq,” World Health Organization, 9/17/08
IRIN, “Two more cholera cases confirmed,” 9/8/08
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