Two die of cholera in Baghdad orphanage

Two Iraqi orphans died of cholera last week in Baghdad, bringing the deaths from this disease nationwide to 23 since it first appeared in August, the Health Ministry said on 18 November.

“The two boys - one died on 15 November and the other died a day earlier - were under 15 and were in the same orphanage where malnourished children were found last summer tied to their beds,” said Adil Muhsin, the Health Ministry's inspector-general.

Muhsin told IRIN in a phone interview that those running the al-Hanan orphanage in northern Baghdad had failed to ensure the provision of clean water.

“They did not clean the water tank and… neglected our health experts' recommendations. When we inspected it we found sediment in the tank and the chlorine was zero," Muhsin said.

Four more children at the orphanage have been diagnosed with cholera, he said.

The orphanage was in the news last June, when US and Iraqi soldiers found 24 severely malnourished boys in a dark room, some tied to beds and too weak to stand once they were unbound.

More on Iraq's cholera outbreak
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New cholera cases in north, says Health Ministry
Hospitals in north struggle to contain cholera outbreak

Later, Iraqi officials said the orphans had been transferred to a different building and were being properly cared for. Arrest warrants were issued for three employees of the orphanage, but they have gone into hiding and remain at large.

In October Iraqi government and UN agencies said the cholera outbreak was under control as more than 70 percent of the country's nearly 4,200 laboratory-confirmed cases were being treated successfully.

The outbreak was first detected on 14 August in Kirkuk in northern Iraq and then spread to Sulaimaniyah, Arbil, Dohuk, Tikrit, Mosul, Diyala, Basra, Wasit, Baghdad and Anbar provinces. The hardest-hit provinces, according to Health Ministry statistics, were Kirkuk with 2,309 cases and Sulaimaniyah with 870 - both in northern Iraq.

Cholera is a gastrointestinal disease typically spread by drinking contaminated water and can cause severe diarrhoea which, in extreme cases, can lead to fatal dehydration. It can be prevented by treating drinking water with chlorine and by improving hygiene conditions.

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