Drinking water, food sources drying up

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Health risks and adequate drinking water are other worries.

A survey by the International Organization for Migration found that some of Iraq’s estimated 2.8 million internal refugees, including in Diyala and Baghdad, already have trouble finding affordable food and clean water, and the situation could now worsen.

“You’ll see a lot of dry canals, a lot of barren fields. You might see some increased health effects,” said 1st Lt. Paul Horton, an assistant civil military operations officer for the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment in Diyala, who praised local government efforts.

In Kurdistan in the north, some villagers have left their homes and headed to cities because of dry wells.

Cholera has broken out in recent years in areas including Diyala. The disease typically is spread by contaminated water, a higher risk when rivers are stagnant and wells low.

The small Diyala river north of Baghdad, for example, is so low now that it’s salty and unsafe to drink - for animals, plants or people, said Sheik Thamir al-Dulaimi, who lives in Dulaim village in Diyala.

Severe sandstorms are another health hazard, like one that clogged Baghdad recently with thick reddish air, full of sand and dust from dry fields to the north and the desert to the west.

The storms cause respiratory problems for children, the sick and the old. They also have damaged power plants and disrupted commercial air flights, the government says.

Local Iraqi officials have taken steps to provide relief from the drought.

Diyala’s governor has banned the growing of water-intensive crops such as rice, and is giving feed to livestock farmers and ordering the drilling of new wells.

In Kurdistan, the government plans to build small dams to store water, said regional environment minister Dara Mohammed. Farmers in the north generally do not irrigate, relying solely on rainfall.

Overall, “We tried to concentrate on providing drinking water and pumping irrigation water,” said Aon Dhiab Abdullah, the head of the ministry that administers most water resources.

Mr. Salim, the farmer near Tikrit, hopes some type of government compensation will get him through the crisis.

He bought 3 tons of wheat seed for $1,500 on credit last fall, planting all but harvesting almost nothing.

To feed his five children, he has resorted to working as a taxi driver.

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