Published on Monday, June 9, 2003 by BBC
Child Sickness 'Soars' in Iraq
The number of children in Iraq suffering from diarrhea. and related diseases appears to have risen dramatically in the past year, the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) said on Sunday.
The World Food Programme said that, before the US-led invasion, one-million Iraqi children had been malnourished as a result of diarrhea.
But the war and the collapse of Iraq's infrastructure had worsened the health hazards, disrupting clean water supplies, damaging sewage systems and halting rubbish collections.
The WFP has begun distributing food rations across Iraq but it warns that food is not enough if water supplies remain contaminated.
The Unicef survey was limited in scope and complete figures were unavailable due to the breakdown in the health system during the war, the organization's spokesman said.
Mr Keele said that 70% of child deaths before the war this spring had been the result of diarrhea. or respiratory infections.
Unicef's figures meant that 72% of the children it had surveyed had had diarrhea., Mr Keele said, pointing out that the condition was a killer in Iraq.
Dysentery and typhoid, spread through contaminated water and food, were "becoming a real problem for children", he said.
Cholera was also on the rise with 66 confirmed cases in the southern city of Basra alone, most of them among small children. Three people had died there of the disease.
Unicef was working to provide treatment to health centers during the high-risk summer months, he said, but Iraq's "poor hygiene" remained a major threat.
"There are 500 breaks in Baghdad's water system alone that lead to contamination with sewage," Mr Keele said.