children 'likely to die in basra'

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    Children 'likely to die in Basra'
    From correspondents in Amman, Jordan

    AT least 100,000 small children in Basra are at risk of disease after water supplies were cut following US-led air strikes on the besieged southern Iraqi city, the United Nations Children's Fund has warned.

    UNICEF said it was concerned over frequent power cuts and the consequent cutting of water supplies to Iraq's second largest city.
    "There must now be a threat of disease as tens of thousands of people in their homes, hospitals and care institutions attempt to cope and find what water they can from the river and other sources," it said.

    "Unfortunately the river is also where sewage is dumped."

    It said children were most vulnerable to contaminated water.

    "Not only are they suffering from high rates of malnutrition, in Basra there is the very real possibility now of child deaths, not only from the conflict, but from the additional effects of diarrhoea and dehydration."

    UNICEF said it estimated that "at least 100,000 children under the age of five are at risk".

    The warning was issued in Amman. Foreign aid workers were evacuated to the Jordanian capital from Iraq last week.

    UN Secretary General Kofi Annan also said Basra "may be facing a humanitarian disaster".

    Fadela Chaib, a spokeswoman for the World Health Organisation in Amman, said teams from the International Committee of the Red Cross had restored the water supply for about 40 per cent of Basra's population.

    However, she said this only partially met the city's needs.

    "The WHO is worried about the impact that the lack of access to potable and clean water will have on the health situation, which could deteriorate quickly."

    British forces attacking Basra were forced to withdraw to regroup after coming under attack with mortars and by Iraqi irregular forces disguised in civilian clothes, the British military said today.
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