BAGHDAD — Fifty percent of water resources are wasted in Iraq, where six million people have no access to clean water, the United Nations said on Monday, the eve of World Water Day.
"Iraq faces difficulties in meeting the target of 91 percent of households using a safe drinking water supply by 2015," due to decades of conflict, sanctions and neglect, the UNICEF children's fund said in a statement.
"Iraq's average water production level per person, at 327 litres (86 gallons)/capita/day, is considered high by international standards but around 50 percent of the water produced is lost to seepage, leakage and wastage due to system inefficiencies," it said.
"One in five or around six million Iraqis do not have access to safe water, of which the vast majority are in rural areas," it added.
It said more than 500,000 Iraqi children access their water from a river or creek and that over 200,000 access their water from an open well.
In rural areas, one in four children access their water from rivers and creeks and nearly one in 10 use tanker trucks and open wells respectively.
Water-borne diseases are widespread due to polluted drinking water supplies, said the statement.
In the first six months of 2010, there were over 360,000 diarrhea cases as a result of polluted drinking water and a lack of hygiene awareness among local communities, particularly vulnerable groups such as women and children.
"Every day at least 250,000 tonnes of raw sewage is pumped into the Tigris river threatening unprotected water sources and the entire water distribution system," it added.
UNICEF said it had supported a variety of projects to improve Iraq's water situation, including awareness and training campaigns.
UNICEF and the European Union are celebrating Water Day in Iraq with a number of events, including celebrations in 23 schools.
Eleven thousand primary school children will join UNICEF in calling for more investments in water infrastructure, the conservation of water resources and keeping these resources free from pollution.