Health crisis looms in Mosul after water supply cut

Internally displaced Iraqi children, who fled the fighting around Mosul, collecting water at the al-Khazer refugee camp. A severe water shortage in the eastern part of Mosul, which could likely affect up to 600,000 people, has given rise to concern a
Internally displaced Iraqi children, who fled the fighting around Mosul, collecting water at the al-Khazer refugee camp. A severe water shortage in the eastern part of Mosul, which could likely affect up to 600,000 people, has given rise to concern about a possible humanitarian disaster.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Cause of disruption still unclear but ISIS militants among suspects

MOSUL (Iraq) • A disruption in water supply left hundreds of thousands of people without water in eastern Mosul, and raised fears of a major health crisis in the war-torn Iraqi city.

It was not immediately clear what caused the disruption, but residents said they have not had any water supply for days, and were pumping water from wells.

"There is a major shortage of water in many districts on the eastern side," said Ms Basma Basseem, from Mosul municipality.

She said up to 600,000 people living on that side of the Tigris River, which splits the city in two, could be affected.

Some residents said the sudden water shortage was caused by air strikes from the United States-led coalition, which damaged the main carrier bringing water from the western side of the city.

Ms Basseem, however, suggested that Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants - whom Iraqi forces are battling in eastern Mosul - may have intentionally stopped the flow.

"There are efforts to bring water tankers to neighbourhoods that have been retaken," she said.

Iraqi commanders said about 40 per cent of the eastern half of Mosul has been retaken from the militants since a huge offensive began on Oct 17. The forces told civilians to stay at home to avoid massive displacement from the city, which likely had a population of more than a million before the operation started.

The lack of clean drinking water could now make it difficult for residents to remain.

"There is no water - we drink water from the well. It's very salty and we have to boil it before we drink it," said Ms Umm Ahraf, 45, who lives in the Khadraa neighbourhood.

Another resident of eastern Mosul said people in retaken areas of eastern Mosul were asking Iraqi forces for their supplies of bottled water.

Mr Abdelkarim al-Obeidi, the secretary-general of civil society organisation Mosul People Gathering, warned of a "humanitarian disaster" in the making.

He said: "The government as well as aid organisations must step up and offer assistance to the people, especially those families forced to drink water from the wells that is not fit for drinking."

The local Nineveh provincial council has delivered basic goods to several neighbourhoods in eastern Mosul.

The progress of Iraqi forces, which vastly outnumber the estimated 5,000 militants defending their last major bastion in Iraq, has been slowed by the presence of a large civilian population often used by ISIS as human shields.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 01, 2016, with the headline 'Health crisis looms in Mosul after water supply cut'. Print Edition | Subscribe