CAFOD report from Basra

 CAFOD's partners Caritas Iraq has expressed concern at the plight of the people in the besieged city of Basra in southern Iraq where people particularly the children are facing a potential health crisis. Caritas Iraq has a Centre in Basra with 25 staff and volunteers including two doctors and four medical staff. The Centre has supplies of vital medical equipment and medicines as well as first aid packs. This equipment has been used to tend to people injured during the bombardment of Iraq's second city. Staff at the Centre have expressed concern that electricity has been cut in the city for the past three days. Electricity is vital to run Iraq's water and sewage treatment plants. Many of the city's 1.5 million people have been forced to use river water for drinking and cooking. The river is polluted by waste water and sewage. Caritas Iraq staff are afraid that disease will spread in the city as people drink this contaminated water. Up to 100,000 children under the age of five are at risk. Some 700 families or 4,000 people in the villages surrounding Mosul have fled their homes and sought refuge in the village of Karakosh where Caritas Iraq has two Centres. Staff at the Caritas Iraq Centre have distributed medical supplies, blankets, mattresses and foodstuffs to these destitute people. Caritas' eight Centres in Baghdad have sent more supplies to Mosul and Karakosh to support their relief efforts. In Baghdad, Caritas Iraq provided first aid to people injured in the continued bombing. Each night Caritas staff have moved into the affected areas and distributed first aid kits and medicines. An entire family of parents and three children were killed in the A'Adhamiya residential area in Baghdad on March 24th. Caritas Iraq has also provided first aid kits and medicine to the hospital run by the Dominican Sisters in Baghdad. A total of 2,000 first aid kits have been distributed to Caritas Centres countrywide. Caritas Iraq has been Trocaire's partner agency in Iraq since 1992. It is an independent Catholic NGO which provides a range of vital services including a Well Baby programme for 30,000 vulnerable mothers and children and clean water for 300,000 people. Caritas Iraq has a staff of 135 and a volunteer network of 170 people. It's staff, who are located in 14 centres throughout Iraq, have expertise in nutrition, health, engineering, water and sanitation. In conjunction with the Iraqi Red Crescent Society which has 18 Centres in Iraq including eight hospitals, Caritas Iraq is providing vital first aid and other relief supplies to vulnerable people affected by the conflict.

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