By Mohammed Al- khuzai in Baghdad

The Iraqi Red Crescent Society has stepped up to provide desalination and purification systems in Basra after a water pollution crisis led to more than 6,200 people needing hospital treatment in the southern Governorate.

The population was at risk after the Tigris and Euphrates rivers – a major source for potable water for Basra’s 4 million residents – fell to low levels at the same time as the salty waters of the Persian Gulf were rising steeply, polluting the scarce water supplies.

During the past two weeks, hospitals in Basra have seen an influx of patients suffering from diarrhea and various intestinal infections, with some 6,280 people being admitted to hospitals for treatment.

Saif Zaki, Director of the Iraq Red Crescent Society branch in Basra, said: “Many citizens in the city are threatened with diseases caused by water salinity and lack of potable water. Many people have received treatment in hospitals, but it still worries everyone.”

Local authorities, humanitarian organizations, and non-governmental organizations in Basra are seeking to contain the crisis by providing potable water through the rehabilitation of water systems and the installing of water purifications units.

Over the past three weeks, the residents’ humanitarian needs have increased dramatically.

Access to medical care has been reduced as a result of the increasing number of casualties caused by pollution, which prompted the Iraqi Red Crescent, supported by the Norwegian Red Cross, to respond. Teams of volunteers have installed four stations for the purification and desalination of water in Abu al-Khasib, Safwan, Shatt al-Arab and Zubayr.

Nawar Abdul Qadir, the Iraqi Red Crescent’s Director of Water and Sanitation, explained: “The Iraqi Red Crescent teams have started installing four stations with a production capacity of 8,000 litres per hour. We plan to include eight additional stations with the support of the International Committee of the Red Cross.”

At the same time, Red Crescent first aid and community outreach teams are working to organize health awareness campaigns for the local population