Iraq is not only vulnerable to the external policies of its neighbouring countries sharing the same water resources, but is also affected severely by global warming and environment changes. This presents challenges in the form of drought caused by significantly decreased rainfall particularly during the last two years, and desertification. According to the Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR), Iraq received only 30% of expected rainfall in 2008. Low regional rainfall also affects water levels in the upstream parts of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and, therefore, has further reduced water discharge volume to Iraq, contributing to desertification. Although use of improved sanitation facilities is relatively high, at 92%, substantial numbers of people report problems with functionality of the sewage system, due to lack of proper maintenance systems. Problems of sanitation have already started to occur in the Tigris and Euphrates due to untreated sewage disposal, which ultimately will lead to sever river water pollution, with a ratio of about three times the acceptable level. Only as little as 17% of sewage generated in Iraq is treated with the rest let out largely untreated into rivers and waterways, polluting surface water and the environment at large. An increase in pollution levels in water bodies including increased salinity levels is forecasted for the coming years. According to IHSES 2007, over 24 million Iraqis, or 80% of the population, did not treat their water before drinking. Water was chemically treated for only 735,000 of Iraq’s 30million citizens, representing barely 2.5% of the population. High incidence of diarrhoeal diseases exists due to unsanitary environmental conditions, unsafe water supply and poor hygiene practices (MICS-3 2006); diarrhoea is the leading cause of child mortality in Iraq (Human Development Report 2008).In terms of human capacity, insufficient numbers of government staff are aware of the basic tenets of Integrated Water Resource Management and Climate Change issues, inter alia, including air pollution, water contamination, hazard waste, which have huge bearing on the status of this sector. A lack of a proper human resources management system, sufficient training plans and systematic means for knowledge transfer have also contributed to a dwindling of human capacity. The absence of a comprehensive Iraqi water strategy had resulted in alarming decrease in water availability, and severe deterioration of water quality.
- Persistent water shortages have had significant implications on water quality contamination and salinity and thus similarly significant implications on the health sector. In terms of water contamination, total number of diarrhea has exceeded 600,000 cases according to MOH report 42 weeks of 2009. The overall country average contaminated water sample is 16%; which is exceeding WHO guidelines and Iraqi Drinking Water National Standards. Furthermore, percentage of contaminated samples has gone beyond this average in the provinces of Ninawa, Erbil, Anbar, Salahadin, Kirkuk, and Basra and has reached in certain areas up to a level of 40%. As stated previously, methods for water collection and testing need to be standardized and a system for laboratory quality control needs to be established within the Ministry of Health (MoH) in coordination other line ministries.
- Lack of proper sewage systems, including sewage collection networks and treatment plants, resulting in the widely spread use of septic tanks and dumping huge amount of sewage and industrial effluent/waste into rivers, streamlines and valleys. This has caused a huge contamination of drinking water sources whether it is surface water (rivers) or underground water. This is widely spread in Iraqi cities like Baghdad, Ninawa, Basra, Erbil and others.
- Improper dumping of solid waste, hazard waste and biomedical waste in open areas and lack of proper treatment and disposal systems of different waste materials near populated areas had resulted in severe negative impact on environment and people health
Residents of Baghdad, Basra, Erbil, Kirkuk and Ninawa