BASRA, April 14 (RHC) — Doctors in Iraq’s second city, Basra, have warned of an epidemic as a majority of the 1.3 million residents were still without safe drinking water three weeks after the war began. Attempts to restore the supply have failed, despite hopes expressed in the first week that it would take a matter of days, while help from aid agencies is only trickling in. The International Committee of the Red Cross based in Kuwait said looting was partly to blame. Lack of security was making it difficult for aid agencies to enter the town, and looters had taken pipes before they could be installed to help distribution.
Doctors at the 600-bed Basra general hospital said the hospital was dealing with many diarrhea cases and the risk of water-acquired diseases, such as cholera and dysentery, was high. There are reports of huge resentment in Basra against the British forces because of the lack of water and electricity, and residents also blame them for failing to control the looters. Joint patrols by British military forces and Iraqi police began Sunday in the south of Basra, becoming the first joint police patrol in the country.
In Baghdad, meanwhile, some 2,000 Iraqi police officers have responded to a call from US forces for the creation of joint patrols for the capital to combat widespread looting as hundreds of outraged Iraqi citizens gathered Monday at the Palestine Hotel, where much of the international media are based, to protest the lack of security, water and electricity in the city. Although some calm is returning to parts of Baghdad, in other districts looting and heavy gunfire continue in between 10 and 15 of the 60 zones in which US forces divided the city. And a 2,000-strong police force will still be considerably weaker than the 40,000 officers who kept order in the capital before the war.