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IRAQ: Doctors warn of summer dehydration among children and the elderly

BAGHDAD, 19 April 2007 (IRIN) - Doctors are warning of a possible increase in diseases among children and the elderly as Iraq’s hot summer months begin. Dehydration, cholera and bacterial infections are of the greatest concern, they say.

“The sewage and electrical systems in Iraq have completely deteriorated, worsening the situation, especially for children, as summer begins,” said Dr Ibraheem Kaduri, a paediatrician at the Children Teaching Hospital in the capital, Baghdad.

Iraqis get less than eight hours of electricity a day and during summer, some cities or districts of the capital get less than six hours.

Kaduri said that many people, especially those in displacement camps, have no access to drinking water. Children are forced to drink less water and as the weather gets hotter, they become dehydrated.

“But we can’t forget that children could also drink dirty water from rivers to quench their thirst, and with the contaminated water, they can be susceptible to diseases like cholera and diarrhoea,” he said. “These children have no access to ventilators and air coolers and with temperatures sometimes reaching 48 to 50 degrees Celsius, it could be disastrous for them.”

Hotter weather will also greatly impact on the health of the elderly, according to Dr Fareed Jaboury, a geriatrician at Medical City Hospital. Many of Iraq’s elderly already suffer from dehydration caused by a lack of a balanced diet, he said. The displaced elderly, in particular, show symptoms of skin disorders caused by low water consumption.

Dehydration might increase drastically

Jaboury said that last year incidences of dehydration increased considerably during the summer months. This year, with living conditions having deteriorated considerably, Jaboury is worried that “the number of cases might increase drastically”.

“Nothing can be done to reverse the situation because there is no time to repair infrastructure. And with continued violence, displaced families will be forced to stay the whole summer in displacement camps or abandoned government buildings,” he said.

''If I lose another child for lack of electricity and clean water, then I would prefer to die with them.''
No official figures are available on the number of deaths caused by dehydration among children and the elderly in Iraq. However, according to the Children Teaching Hospital in Baghdad, last summer at least 28 children died from dehydration caused by hot weather. Most of the dead were below five years of age while dozens of others were treated for chronic conditions.

“Last year, I lost my daughter and my mother because of dehydration,” said Zahra Muhammad, 35, who has been displaced since May 2006. “We couldn’t afford cooling systems in our tent. My daughter was only four years old and couldn’t stand the hard living conditions in addition to the very hot weather.

“I have more two children and they are already sick because of malnutrition. The doctors have told me that without proper cooling and drinkable water, I should expect serious consequences in the coming months. If I lose another child for lack of electricity and clean water, then I would prefer to die with them,” she said.

as/ar/ed

Theme (s): Children, Conflict, Early Warning, Health & Nutrition, Refugees/IDPs,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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