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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 October, 2004, 12:27 GMT 13:27 UK
Profile: Care International
Iraqi schoolchildren
UN sanctions led to the deterioration of Iraq's water supply
Care International is a global humanitarian group, working with more than 30 million poor people each year.

Care has worked in Iraq since 1991 and specialises in one of the most controversial areas of reconstructing the country - water

UN sanctions and the recent war have left the entire country with water and sewage plants in disrepair.

The aid group maintains water systems in central and southern Iraq and helps feed children in hospitals.

Care International, founded in the US in 1945, now operates in 60 developing countries across the world and is funded by institutions and government, including the UN, the World Bank, the British Government and the European Union.

Care worked in Iraq from 1963 to 1968 managing rural development village assistance programmes and returned following the Gulf War in 1991 to help Kurdish refugees.

The water supply was inadequate and the hospitals had no sewage disposal
Care International director Margaret Hassan

More than 21 million Iraqis are now served by water installations funded by Care and more than two million benefit from water plants and pumping stations maintained with Care help.

According to the group, the Iraqi government ran a sophisticated water treatment system designed for an urban population - but following UN sanctions, infrastructure began to crumble.

Since the US-led invasion of Iraq, the already-fractured water system has led to very high levels of water intoxication and diseases related to water, particularly in the south.

It has been estimated that nearly $10bn (5.5bn) would be required to repair Iraq's water system.

The US Congress allocated more than $3.7bn (2bn) to restore drinking water, sewage, irrigation and water resources.

Yet water resources Minister Abdul Latif Rasheed told Reuters in August the cash to finance the reconstruction was not coming fast enough and the population was suffering.

Water aid

Care runs three major water programme's in Iraq, two of which are funded by the British government's Department for International Development (DFID) and one by the European Commission.

An integrated water project in Mahaweel, Hamza and surrounding areas, running since 2002, has attempted to bring better quality and quantity of drinking water and health services to the population.

But in February last year, Care International director Margaret Hassan delayed installation of parts for water treatment plants in these towns due to the pending war.

Mrs Hassan said in a press release at the time she wanted to delay installation "in anticipation of further developments in the region".

Plagued with problems

"In Hamza and Mahaweel the hospitals were in terrible state of repairs - parts were actually crumbling," she added.

"Consultant doctors were working three in a room in the least damaged parts of the buildings, trying to deal with patients.

"The water supply was inadequate and the hospitals had no sewage disposal.

"Raw sewage was flowing back into the river. The primary health care centre was collapsing. We finally pulled it down."

Care also runs the water and sanitation project (WATSAN) in 14 districts in central and southern Iraq, which attempts to address poor access to drinking water and sewage disposal facilities.

The Diyala integrated water project is working at improving the quality and availability of drinking water supplied to 77,000 people in three towns in eastern Iraq.

A fourth Care project provides emergency medical supplies for hospitals.

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