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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 April, 2003, 18:22 GMT 19:22 UK
Iraq faces water pollution threat
An Iraqi boy carries a bucket filled with canal water in Nasiriya
Millions of Iraqis are at threat of diseases if their water is not treated

The United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) has made an urgent appeal for hundreds of tonnes of chlorine gas to treat Iraq's drinking water.

The organisation says that, without treatment, millions of Iraqis could face epidemics of water-borne disease.

When the supplies of chlorine run out in some areas as early as this week, drawing water from a tap will be like taking it from a swamp
Unicef Executive Director Carol Bellamy

Supplies of the gas are rapidly dwindling in the south of the country, and could run out as early as this week, Unicef says.

Aid agencies are concerned that drinking unsafe water could cause outbreaks of cholera, dysentery and diarrhoea.

Unicef says it needs $3m to buy enough gas to purify water for four million southern Iraqis over the next three months.

Nasiriya, Basra, Zubayr and Safwan are all affected.

IRAQ WATER
400 tonnes of chlorine gas needed for three months
One tonne needed per million inhabitants per day
$3m needed to buy gas to purify water for 4 million people
Unicef figures

Diarrhoea - which causes dehydration and accelerates malnutrition - and respiratory illnesses already account for 70% of deaths among children under five years in Iraq, Unicef says.

Unicef also urged coalition forces to accelerate gas deliveries to the water pumping stations.

The organisation also plans to boost the number of trucks it is sending to the region from neighbouring Kuwait, from 20 to 50 a day.

Unicef says only a small proportion of raw sewage is treated in Iraq, and most is dumped untreated into the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

It is then drawn again into pumping and treatment stations that provide the majority of Iraqi households with water.




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