CAFOD finds bleak humanitarian picture in Umm Qasr

 Humanitarian work in the port of Umm Qasr is currently not meeting the needs of the Iraqi people. Water shortages are critical and almost everyone is desperate for fresh drinking water. Although water pipelines are now operative from Kuwait into the town there are major problems with distribution, as not enough water is getting through to the people who need it most. The local people say that they have to pay for the fresh water, which is being delivered by tanker by Iraqi staff on behalf of the Coalition forces. CAFOD's Emergencies Officer, Alistair Dutton, said: "Almost every person we spoke to asked us for water. We met a family of 14 who had to drink from a dirty oil drum, which contained water, which was filthy. In addition the hospital hadn't received any water for three days because of a broken pump, which would be easy to fix and were forced to rely on what they could buy from the tankers. The people we spoke to very angry and frustrated they had been led to believe by Coalition information leaflets that they would be able to get water, food and medicine in Um Qasr but when they arrived there was not enough water for them". The team who were carrying out a humanitarian assessment on behalf of Caritas Internationalis the worldwide network of Catholic aid agencies network were appalled by the way the humanitarian aid is being distributed. Mr Dutton added: "The humanitarian situation here is very bleak. If after two weeks it hasn't been possible to bring aid to a town of 40,000 people what hope is there of getting aid to the 1.2 million people of Basra". In Umm Qasr they met Um Sami, a mother of 14 children who is very angry about the way the Iraqi people have been treated. She told them: "You support us for a while just for your tv and newspapers to show that you like us but really you are just changing Saddam for a new imperialism. We have no hope. We would like our children to go back to school to continue our studies but we have no faith in the Coalition." Hundreds of people are flooding in to Umm Qsar having read in the leaflets dropped by the Coalition that they will find food, water and medical treatment in the port. The numbers turning up in the hospital are increasing daily and the number of patients doubled to 400 in the last day but there is only one doctor and no water supply. One 14-year-old boy the team saw had been wounded in the head by a piece of shrapnel in Basra. He had received an operation in the city but was paralysed and his father had brought him to the hospital at Umm Qasr believing he could get better treatment but there was nothing that could be done for him.

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