Basra residents hit by surging food, fuel prices

Residents of Iraq’s second-largest city of Basra are breathing a sigh of relief after Shia radical leader Moqtada al-Sadr ordered his militia to end the clashes with government forces which erupted on 25 March.

[Read this report in Arabic]

“We witnessed wars in the past: the 1980s Iraq-Iran war, 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 US-led invasion, but we did not go through such an experience as we did with this tragedy,” said Salim Abdul-Hussein, a 40-year-old resident of Basra’s central Jubaila area where clashes broke out.

On the afternoon of 30 March Abdul-Hussein finally emerged from his home after the five-day curfew was eased in a bid to get food, water and medicines for his children and sick, elderly mother.

“Food prices have at least doubled while those of other things have increased more than three times, with no bakeries and no fuel stations opened,” Abdul-Hussein told IRIN in a telephone interview.

He said a kilo of tomatoes had jumped from 250 Iraqi dinars (21 US cents) to 2,500 dinars (US$ 2.10) and a kilo of potatoes now sold for 3,000 dinars (US$2.50) - up from 250 dinars (21 US cents).

The price of some types of fish had risen from about $1.10 to $2.50 per kilo and the price of a 30-egg box had risen from $5 to $10.

A cylinder of cooking gas now sells for about 25,000 dinars instead of 5,000 dinars and the price of a litre of fuel has risen from 450 dinars to 8,500 dinars.

“My 70-year-old mother has run out of one of her three main cancer medicines and there was no way of replacing them,” he said.

“We lived a very tragic life. My children were crying and trembling with each shooting or explosion nearby. There was no electricity, no water and as a result of the clashes garbage piled up in the street,” he said.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has dispatched a number of water tanks to Basra neighbourhoods where clashes took place.

“The organisation managed to reach five neighbourhoods in northern and southern Basra and distributed about 50,000 litres of drinking water,” UNICEF said in a statement on 30 March, adding that it would provide drinking water and medical support to 70,000 families “when the situation gets better”.

sm/ar/cb