As a result of Coalition military action in 2003, the Iraqi people were freed from decades of brutal dictatorship. Iraq now has a democratically elected government, under a permanent new constitution. Over 12 million people, or 76 per cent. of the electorate, voted in the December 2005 election.
With UK and international help, Iraq is making progress on improving essential services and infrastructure. 4 million more Iraqis have access to potable water than before the conflict, and 9.6 million more have access to a sewerage system. 240 hospitals and 1,200 primary health care centres are functioning, 20 hospitals are being rehabilitated and one major hospital is under construction. Over 5 million children have received life saving vaccinations and there has been a resulting decline in malaria, measles, mumps, and polio. Around 5,000 schools have been refurbished and more than 70 million new textbooks have been distributed throughout schools. Electricity generation is currently struggling to meet demand, partly because so many Iraqis have bought new electrical appliances since 2003. However, major repair projects are underway to maintain a sustainable power grid and deliver increased output. The Department for International Department is managing a £40 million programme to improve power and water supplies in southern Iraq.
There are plainly major challenges ahead—in particular the need to bring down the appalling levels of violence which some parts of Iraq are suffering. This is the Iraqi government’s highest priority—and ours.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and US Secretary of State Rice discuss Iraq on a regular basis. Their most recent meetings were during Secretary Rice’s visit to the UK on 6 October and in New York at the UN General Assembly during the week beginning 18 September.