BAGHDAD, 22 Jun 2005 (IRIN) - Two million Baghdad residents have been without drinking water since 19 June after saboteurs targeted a major water main in the capital.
"The attack on the water pipes was a shock to all residents. Insurgents are not only killing innocent people but also destroying the daily lives of millions of people," Amer Salman, a senior Baghdad governorate official, said.
Salman added that they were working hard to repair the main but said that it may take up to a week to have it functioning properly again, although small-scale pumping may start within two days.
The Mansoor, Yarmouk, Kadhimiya, Baya'a, Ghazaliya and Hay al-Jame'a districts in Baghdad are the worst affected.
"Every day I have to drive 10 km to reach to a public water pipe where I can get water for washing, cleaning and drinking. My air conditioning [AC] machine needs to be filled with water manually every three hours," Kamal al-Jumaily, a Yarmouk district resident, said.
The AC machines, which have to be filled by hand, are cheap to run and are to be found in most Iraqi homes. They are particularly necessary in the summer when temperatures may reach 50 degrees centigrade.
Local doctors have reported an increase in diarrhoea and other illnesses related to the consumption of dirty water.
"Children have been the most effected, due to the dirty water being consumed now. Some families are using public pipes and unsafe wells, which are known to be contaminated," Dr Ahmed Ibraheem, at Yarmouk general hospital, said.
Ibraheem added that during the last water shortage in the capital in January, more than 200 cases of illness through consumption of contaminated water were reported, but they fear the number could be higher now as sanitation has further deteriorated in the capital.
In a desperate measure, many residents have started to dig wells in their gardens.
"The heat is increasing and in place where we acquire more comfort, Iraqis are suffering even more now from power and water shortages," Mahmoud Abbas, a Bayaa district resident said.