Thousands of children at risk from unsafe drinking water in schools in Basra
In a report published on Tuesday, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) warned that more than 277,000 children are at risk of contracting water-borne diseases in schools that have just reopened in Basra, where water and sanitation facilities have totally collapsed. Teachers have told the NRC that they are witnessing an increasing number of children hospitalised since they returned to school.
Basra is an Iraqi city located between Kuwait and Iran and is home to over two million people. The water crisis in the region has already led to more than 110,000 people poisoned over the last three months, according to the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights. According to the report, residents told the NRC that access to clean water was a key source of tension and even armed violence in the community.
In response to the concerning number of children suffering from the effects of unsanitary drinking water, the NRC's Country Director Wolfgang Gressmann said:
"With classes just reopening after summer, more than 800 schools are now breeding grounds for an epidemic of water-borne diseases, including cholera, as temperatures drop in the coming weeks. We are extremely concerned that the deteriorating water and sanitation infrastructure of schools and the overcrowded classrooms will catapult the city into a veritable public health disaster."
There are currently an estimated 508,000 children in Basra and the Basra region that are facing severe drinking water shortages. This week, NRC is starting to support 9,000 children in the most affected schools in Basra governorate by rehabilitating latrines, water tanks and handwashing areas in collaboration with the Directorate of Education.
"We urge donor governments to fund the response to this unfolding disaster before it's too late. As one primary school teacher told us: Everyone is at risk now."
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Photo credit: Tom Peyre-Costa/NRC