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'Millions Of Iraqis' At Risk From Polluted Water

Children fill water containers at a garbage dump in Baghdad.
(RFE/RL) -- Millions of people in Iraq are at risk of disease because of a lack of clean drinking water and proper sanitation, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has warned.

"More people now have access to health services and clean water. But far too many Iraqis still have no choice but to drink dirty water and live in insalubrious conditions," said Juan-Pedro Schaerer, the ICRC's head of delegation for Iraq. "This leads to more sick people seeking treatment in a health-care system already stretched to the limit."

The humanitarian agency said it was particularly concerned about the roughly four in 10 Iraqi households that were not connected to a water network.

It said those people were forced to buy water or collect it from rivers and wells, which are often polluted.

The ICRC said even households that do have piped water experienced problems because of a lack of maintenance and illegal connections to the network.

Uncollected household waste and untreated sewage were another health risk, it said.