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Iraq: Basra

Volume 688: debated on Thursday 11 January 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the situation in and around the city of Basra, Iraq, for which they have responsibilities, particularly whether (a) local and provincial government is functioning effectively; (b) electricity, water and services have been restored and, where possible, improved; (c) schools and hospitals are working at full capacity; and (d) non-governmental organisations are helping to meet the needs of the population.[HL837]

The Basra provincial council has been responsible for delivering basic services since Iraqi sovereignty was established in 2004. The UK, along with other international partners such as the UN, has worked alongside the Basra provincial council to help it effectively meet the needs of local people. DfID’s capacity-building programme has built up the financial management and budgeting capacity of governorate institutions, trained over 50 governorate officials, and refurbished offices and resource centres in all four provinces. We have worked with the Basra provincial council to produce a three-year development strategy, which the council is now using to plan and implement essential repairs to water and sanitation services, electricity infrastructure and roads.

International assistance has helped to stabilise Iraq's water and electricity infrastructure following decades of neglect and underinvestment. Since 2003 over $3.5 billion has been spent on electricity infrastructure in Iraq, increasing peak generation capacity to 5,350 megawatts in July 2006, compared to a pre-2003 capacity of 4,200 megawatts. The World Bank estimates that to improve generation capacity to meet projected demand for electricity in Iraq will take 10 years and $20 billion. DfID-funded repairs have added or secured 350 megawatts to the national grid so far, and improved power supply to 1.5 million homes around Basra. On completion of our current programmes in mid-2007, DfID will have added or secured 470 megawatts to the national grid.

Around $1.3 billion has been spent on over 300 projects to repair and improve water and sanitation infrastructure in Iraq. DfID's work on water and sanitation in Basra will improve access to water for around 1 million people. But decades of neglect and an ageing infrastructure means that overall access to drinkable water and sewage systems remains similar to pre-2003 levels.

The international community has undertaken extensive rehabilitation of schools and healthcare facilities nationwide. Through extensive disease control programmes, the prevalence of leishmaniasis, malaria and polio have all declined. Vaccination campaigns have helped reduce the outbreak of previously endemic diseases and annual campaigns have inoculated 98 per cent of Iraqi children under five years of age against measles, mumps, and rubella.

Specifically regarding non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the current security environment means that there are very few international and Iraqi NGOs working in Basra. However, some NGOs are present and assisting the local population.