Iraq’s government has ordered daily water tests and other measures to try and contain an outbreak of cholera that has been blamed for the deaths of at least six people in a town west of the capital Baghdad.
At least 70 other infections were reported in and around Abu Ghraib, as health experts warn the outbreak may spread because of the high number of displaced people living in refugee camps in the area.
The country’s water and sewerage systems are outdated and infrastructure development has been hindered by years of war and neglect.
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Prime Minister Haider al-Abbadi said Iraq would work with the Red Crescent and UN children’s agency UNICEF to install additional water purification stations in Abu Ghraib.
He also ordered bottled water to be distributed in the affected areas to thousands of families displaced from western areas controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group.
In its most severe form, cholera – transmitted mainly through contaminated water and food – causes acute diarrhoea that can cause death by dehydration and kidney failure within hours.
Hundreds of people were diagnosed with the illness in 2012 in the northern city of Kirkuk and the Kurdistan region. Five years earlier, at least 24 people died and more than 4,000 cases were confirmed.