On a scorching summer day in Baghdad, Qassim Dakheel squats in his yard and looks anxiously at his water hose, waiting for the water to flow.
In Dakheel’s poor neighborhood, the International Committee of the Red Cross delivers 140,000 liters of water a day, without which 7,500 families would have no water. The government’s network of water pipes does not reach their homes.
Dakheel’s family of 27, which includes 10 children and 15 grandchildren, consumes 1,000 liters of water a day from the ICRC. But it barely meets their needs.
“We depend on this water truck. If it did not come for any reason, on that day a glass of water would be as precious as a human soul ... we would be left without anything,” said Dakheel, 47.
According to statistics cited by the ICRC, 1 in 4 of Iraq’s 30 million people does not have access to safe drinking water, a persistent problem seven years after the U.S. invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
Decades of war and international sanctions left Iraq’s infrastructure in tatters. In many areas like Dakheel’s, the government’s water pipes do not reach newly built neighborhoods.
The ICRC water trucks make up for water distribution systems that are old or badly maintained, and further weakened by illegal connections and substandard plumbing in households.