|The News Line: Feature
Thursday, 18 August 2005
‘WATER AND ELECTRICITY MORE IMPORTANT THAN CONSTITUTION’ SAY IRAQIS
Iraq’s newspapers warned Tuesday of the risk of the total collapse of basic services like electricity and water, saying upgrading them was more important than drafting the constitution.
‘The petrol crisis stole the spotlight from the constitution crisis,’ said the editorial in the leading independent daily Azaman.
Iraqi puppets missed the midnight Monday deadline for presenting a draft constitution to the occupation-designated ‘Iraqi parliament’ despite marathon talks, with puppet MPs being granted a one-week extension to draw up a charter by August 22.
Although the missed deadline was on the front pages of most newspapers, editorials hammered the fledgling puppet administration for ignoring basic amenities in the war-torn occupied country, where power cuts and water shortages are recurring problems.
‘Why talk about progress in the political process when the quality of life is deteriorating at all levels,’ said Al-Mashriq, a daily close to the Kurdish community.
‘Politics was invented to improve life, not to make it worse, but in Iraq this truth has been altered.’
Earlier in the week, the Azzaman daily had reported the increase in Tuberculosis since the US-led invasion.
The article said: ‘Tuberculosis (TB) cases have soared in the country since the U.S.-led invasion more than two years ago, Iraqi doctors say.
‘The increase in cases is mainly due to shortages of medicine and poor health conditions, they say.
‘There are currently 2,668 registered TB patients only in Baghdad, according to Dr Dhafer Salman head of the Health Ministry’s Department for Chest and Respiratory Diseases.
‘He said there were 10,498 registered TB cases in the whole country while the number was 4,753 in 1990.
‘The country’s once comprehensive health service with efficient infrastructure has all but collapsed in the 1990s due to UN trade sanctions which the US strongly supported and forcefully maintained.
‘Conditions have not improved since the US invaded the country with hospitals and Primary Health Care centres suffering from shortages of medicine, qualified personnel and poor conditions.
‘Before the sanctions and the US invasion, the Iraqi population enjoyed the benefits of one of the better healthcare systems in the entire Middle East.
‘The system kept tuberculosis under control for nearly 50 years only to see it spreading once again in the aftermath of the 2003 US-led invasion.
‘A survey on living conditions, released by the UN and the Iraqi government in May, stressed that health and living standards have seriously deteriorated over the past two years with poor access to clean water and adequate healthcare.
‘Salman said his department has tried to import all the drugs necessary for the treatment of the diseases, but he admitted his department faced an uphill task in combating Tuberculosis.
‘The registered cases do not represent the reality as many patients fail to report to hospitals due to the stigma of shame and embarrassment the disease brings to those afflicted.
‘The Arabic word for TB (Sil) is pejorative and even if diagnosed many patients would attempt to hide the true nature of the disease.
‘TB treatment is expensive and may cost hundreds of dollars, which most patients coming from poor districts in Baghdad and other provinces cannot afford.
‘Patients visiting public health clinics receive free diagnosis and treatment but not all the drugs used in TB treatment are available at public health pharmacies.
‘TB is a chronic disease and patients need long-term care and treatment which may continue for two years, said Salman.
‘To stem the spread of TB, the Health Ministry has opened a new hospital in Baghdad to treat patients from across the country.
‘The hospital’s director, Dr Sami Wasfi said outpatient clinics have begun offering services to visitors from Baghdad and other provinces.’
• Meanwhile, imperialist banditry and the contradiction between Iraq’s vast oil wealth and petrol shortages were highlighted in the latest set of economic figures on Monday.
Iraq’s oil exports rose to an average of 1.6 million barrels a day during July, and tenders have been issued to build new refineries to help cope with fuel shortages hitting the country, the puppet oil minister said.
Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum announced that Iraq’s crude exports had been 1.44 billion barrels a day for June.
He said Iraq earned about $2.5 billion from oil sales abroad last month.
But the puppet minister admitted that the country, which lacks sufficient refining capabilities, is spending $300 million to import refined oil products to face fuel shortages.
‘During July, Iraq imported 13 million litres (3.43 million gallons) of gasoline daily to meet the increasing demand,’ Bahr al-Uloum said.
He claimed: ‘The oil ministry is planning to increase the local gasoline production to 13 million litres (3.43 million gallons) a day by the end of August.’
Lines at petrol stations in Baghdad sometimes stretch for miles, forcing drivers to wait for hours before reaching the pumps.
He said the ongoing smuggling of cheaper fuel to neighbouring countries compounds the problem.
Also, many Iraqis use petrol to run generators during the country’s frequent electricity outages, especially in the scorching summer.
‘Last month, the consumption of gasoline has increased in Baghdad with an average of two million litres because of the electricity cut-offs,’ the puppet oil minister said.
The Oil Ministry has issued a tender to build a new $1 billion refinery south of Baghdad with a capacity of 140,000 barrels a day, he said.
A second $400 million tender was issued to build a refinery near Sulaimaniyah in the Kurdish area of northern Iraq with a capacity of 70,000 barrels a day, he added.
Turning a blind eye to the growing strength of resistance, Bahr al-Uloum said he expected that Iraq’s oil production would rise to 3.5 million barrels a day over the next two years.
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