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Warning on 'dire' Iraq conditions

By Imogen Foulkes
BBC News, Geneva

A woman collects an aid package from the Iraqi Red Crescent in Baghdad (23/09/2008)
The Red Cross says it cannot provide basic services indefinitely

The Red Cross is warning that despite some improvements in security in Iraq, the condition of the country's infrastructure remains dire.

In a statement issued from their headquarters in Geneva, the Red Cross said it was particularly concerned about poor water supplies.

It estimates that over 40% of Iraq's civilian population still has no access to clean mains water.

The organisation says that the health of millions Iraqis is at risk.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) describes the condition of Iraq's health, water and sanitation services as dire - failing to meet the needs of a large part of the population.

Following this summer's outbreak of cholera, Beatrice Megevand Roggo, Red Cross Head of Operations for the Middle East, said she was especially concerned about the lack of clean water supplies.

Ms Megevand Roggo said even the most basic infrastructure in Iraq is not functioning.

The Red Cross agrees security has improved recently in some parts of Iraq and this has allowed the organisation to expand its operations.

But, the ICRC insists, it can not be expected to provide basic services indefinitely.

"There is only so much a humanitarian organisation can do," said Ms Megevand Roggo.

"Their own responsibility is also something that matters a lot - you cannot only count on humanitarians to solve the problems of a country like Iraq."

That is a clear message to the government in Baghdad, and to the coalition forces.

Now that, five-and-a-half years after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the violence has finally begun to abate; the authorities should not wait too long to start providing the simple necessities of normal life.

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