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Oil-for-Food Programme
Background Brief - Water and Sanitation

The Oil-for-Food Programme was established in April 1995 as a temporary measure to ease the unintended consequences of United Nations sanctions on Iraq's civilian population. The first Iraqi oil sold under the programme to pay for humanitarian supplies, was exported in December 1996 and the first shipments of food arrived in March 1997. As of 20 March 2003, the Oil-for-Food Programme covered 24 sectors of need and had prevented the further degradation of public services and infrastructure, making a significant difference in the humanitarian situation nationwide.

The water supply system in Iraq deteriorated dramatically in the early 1990s. Production of potable water declined by as much as 40 per cent and the quantity of water available per person for every day use, decreased from 330 to 218 litres per day in Baghdad City; from 270 to 171 litres per day in other urban areas; and from 180 to less than 91 litres per day in rural areas.

The water treatment system in Iraq consists of 218 traditional water treatment plants and 1,191 mobile compact water treatment plants that mainly serve rural areas. An assessment of 278 compact water treatment plants in the south and central governorates in 2002 determined that Oil-for-Food Programme inputs including pumps, chlorinators and generators had increased performance and halted the deterioration of facilities.

Water Availability in Iraq Before and after Oil-for-Food

The rehabilitation of networks in the central and southern governorates, reduced water leakage from 40 per cent to 30 per cent and in Dahuk City in the north, a new water project provided safe drinking supplies for 250,000 people. In Iraq's urban areas, the daily available supply of potable water per capita increased from 166 litres per day in 1997 to 197 litres per day by 2002. Access to safe drinking water remained seriously inadequate however, with an estimated 500,000 metric tons of raw or partially treated sewage discharged daily into the Tigris and Euphrates rivers - the main sources of the Iraq's water supply. That situation was compounded by the fact that many water and sanitation networks were in poor repair.

Throughout the northern governorates, the installation of pump and chlorination facilities benefitted several hundred thousand people. Bacteriological and chemical analyses revealed that 98 per cent of drinking water samples in the urban areas were brought within guidelines established by the World Health Organization (WHO).

With an estimated population of 1.5 million, the three major northern cities of Dahuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah were the focus of urban safe water supply interventions. Urban water networks and sewerage channels were extended and the level of access to water, currently at 96.4 per cent of households in urban areas, was maintained.

In rural areas, the UN introduced multi-village water projects where all households in several villages were connected directly to a common water source. All projects had integrated treatment measures to increase the quality of water. Throughout the northern governorates, the installation of pump and chlorination facilities benefited several hundred thousand people.


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