BAGHDAD, 8 Jun 2005 (IRIN) - With the onset of summer in Iraq there are increasing concerns that erratic power supplies could have a serious impact on the health of the local population.
Doctors in the capital, Baghdad, have pointed to a spike in the number of patients suffering dehydration and already three deaths have been reported among the elderly. During the summer months temperatures in Iraq sometime reach around 50 degrees Celsius.
"Every day we see an increase in the number of people looking for our services due to health problems caused by the lack of power," Dr Abbas Shaker, a clinician at Yarmouk hospital, told IRIN. Shaker explained that children and the elderly were most vulnerable to dehydration, especially if their homes do not have a cooling system.
Communities have called on the government to act quickly in order to prevent further casualties.
"My two sons are suffering from dehydration in the hospital because we cannot afford generators or buy a fan to cool our house," Salua Hassan told IRIN at the Paediatrician Teaching Hospital in Baghdad.
The erratic power supply has also taken a toll on businesses in the capital.
"I have stopped bringing meat and other frozen stuff to my shop because I was losing a lot of food due to the power shortages. I have lost many clients because I cannot afford a generator to supply all my refrigerators," Teif Muhammad, a Baghdad shopkeeper said.
United States officials have said that while they will continue to play a supporting role in rebuilding Iraq's electricity system, the bulk of the reconstruction work is the responsibility of the Ministry of Electricity(MoE).
Even before the US-led invasion in 2003, Iraq did not produce enough power to meet demand, which ranged between 3,000 and 6,500 megawatts, depending on the weather.
According to Brookings Institution-Iraq Index, updated in March 2005, the average output was 4,400 megawatts during March 2003, the month preceding the coalition occupation.
The former president, Saddam Hussein, had reportedly drained power from other parts of the country to serve Baghdad, which on average received electricity for 20 hours daily. Some provinces in the south had to make do with less than six hours of power per day.
The MoE has assured residents of ongoing efforts to beef up the power supply.
"We are working hard to boost power-generation capacity to 5,500 megawatts per month from the current 3,700-megawatt level," Ra'ad Shalal, a senior MoE official told IRIN.
Shalal went on to warn that in the coming summer months, electricity demand could reach levels of 8,250 megawatts. He said there were plans to provide electricity on a rotating basis, with three hour breaks during the day and at night.
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