Basra's dirty water strikes down EU's Iraq envoy

Basra's dirty water strikes down EU's Iraq envoy
Envoy Ramon Blecua joins tens of thousands of Basra residents who have been hospitalised from drinking contaminated water in the southern city.
2 min read
05 October, 2018
Iraqi youth fill up a water tank in Basra [Getty]
The EU's ambassador to Iraq has found common cause with Basra's residents, who have been protesting contaminated water and other issues, as he got ill drinking dirty water. 

Envoy Ramon Blecua said he felt ill and "had to cancel several meetings" in the southern city.  

"UNICEF doctor diagnosed the cause as water pollution," he wrote on Twitter, referring to the UN children's agency.

He said he had not planned "to take my solidarity with the people of Basra that far, but certainly now share how you feel".

More than 90,000 people have been hospitalised in Basra due to polluted water, according to Iraq's high commission for human rights.

The health crisis also hit a top football club from Baghdad last month, when the al-Hussein team were forced to postpone their Basra match after 10 players became sick from the water. 

Thousands of residents have protested against the water crisis and the broader dire state of public services, prompting pledges from Baghdad to improve conditions in the oil-rich southern province.

Blecua said he was in Basra as part of EU efforts to support projects linked to the delivery of services, as well as those related to good governance and job creation.

The pollution first sparked angry protests in Basra in September against poor public services.

Twelve protesters were killed amid several nights of violence, which saw public institutions and the Iranian consulate torched in Basra City.

The crisis has had major ramifications in Baghdad, undermining the power base of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

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