9 May – United Nations relief agencies expressed concern today over a potential cholera epidemic in Iraq’s second largest city, Basra, and a growing eviction of Palestinian refugees that could eventually leave up to 90,000 people homeless.
The UN World Health Organization (WHO) said 17 cases of acute watery diarrhoeal syndrome had been notified in two Basra hospitals since 28 April and initial laboratory analysis showed cholera was highly probable.
“Due to the current security situation and difficulties experienced in restoring safe water supplies to the population, a larger cholera epidemic is predicted,” WHO said.
It added that agency staff had already set up a surveillance system, were conducting a survey of diarrhoeal cases in other hospitals and had established an outbreak committee to implement control measures using pre-positioned supplies.
The Security Council President for May, Pakistani Ambassador Munir Akram, yesterday cited cholera as one of the concerns facing UN agencies in Iraq, saying the outbreak “has to be contained.”
Meanwhile the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said a growing number of Palestinian refugees had been evicted from their homes in Baghdad, and an agency convoy with basic relief supplies left Jordan for the Iraqi capital today.
Reports suggested that about 1,000 Palestinians had already been forced to leave their homes since the end of the war and were camping in disused buildings and various open areas around Baghdad.
“UNHCR fears that more of the 60,000 to 90,000 Palestinian refugees believed to be living in Iraq may lose their homes, as other landlords reclaim property they were forced to rent out for minuscule sums to the (previous) Ba'ath government on behalf of the refugees,” spokesman Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva.
He said a UNHCR team in southern Iraq had also discovered that local communities had ejected dozens of Iranian refugees from their homes.
Today’s convoy from Jordan was carrying materials for up to 2,000 people, including 400 tents, 1,200 mattresses and 2,000 blankets as well as stoves, jerry cans and soap.