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Last Updated: Monday, 13 June, 2005, 10:11 GMT 11:11 UK
My Day in Iraq: Water engineer
As part of the BBC News website's One Day in Iraq coverage on 7 June, we heard from people from all walks of life, all over the country.

Raad Saleh Mahdi, a 45-year-old water engineer in Baghdad, described the huge task of trying to supply a basic need in a damaged, violent city.

I work for the Red Cross, trying to co-ordinate between water and sewage authorities and treatment plants to ensure Baghdad's residents get clean water.

I live in eastern Baghdad, a few kilometres from the centre. Every day I get up at 0700, and leave home at 0730 to start work.

It's a very difficult job. Even moving from site to site is difficult - we have to keep a low profile. I don't use a Red Cross car, I use a private car, and I change my car from time to time, that's how I try to be hidden.

There is the risk of car bombs, or there may be troops, or fighting, armed clashes. You cannot predict what might happen. There are people who don't like our work with NGOs - I don't know why.

And there are kidnappers and looters. They think we get a good salary and so we must have money. So the motives can be political or economic.

I work also in Anbar province, and that contains the cities of Falluja, and Ramadi, and there are people there who don't like us or the emblem of the Red Cross. We are afraid of them.

We have just started this new project to supply the 60,000 residents of the al-Husseini district of Baghdad with potable water. There is no water treatment plant there, no network, no project, no kind of resource for water.

I suffer most when it comes to my children... When there's an explosion near their school, imagine how we worry
Raad Saleh Mahdi
Water engineer in Baghdad
So today, I distributed about 560,000 litres of water there. We supply it by private tankers, which we hire from the market with drivers. More than 30 tankers daily carry out this job. The water is free of charge, paid for by the Red Cross.

The people collect water with jerry cans or whatever they have. This is a poor area, people are out of work, they don't have a good income, and they're also suffering from a lack of electricity and all municipal services.

The people are not happy. All the people in this area, which is close to Sadr City, are Shia - they're supposed to have new support from the government, but now there is nothing on the ground. Until now there have been only promises - "we'll spend money, we'll build new houses" - but there's nothing yet.

Fear for my family

I'm married with five children - a boy aged 17, then two daughters aged 16, 15, then twins, a boy and a girl, aged seven.

A little girl plays by sewage in Sadr City, Baghdad
Providing clean water is a huge challenge in war-torn Baghdad
I suffer most when it comes to my children. I always think I should follow them around, collect them from school.

When we hear there's an explosion or car bomb near their school, imagine how we worry. Immediately, I go there just to check and have a look. Sometimes we try to use a mobile phone to try to call the teachers.

And my daughters, especially, they suffer, because we can't go out. At seven every evening, I return home and stay there until the morning. I cannot take the children to a restaurant, or to the park. Not like in the north, or even the south. Everywhere in Iraq else is better than Baghdad.

It makes us very tense, very nervous, even my family and wife. You know, they are human, they should have a life.

Sometimes I think of taking them to Jordan or Syria, but even that is difficult. The roads to the borders are dangerous. There are many clashes and troops.

This is our life. It is not easy, but we have hope that soon it will be better.


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