Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Getaway with Mark

Gareth Parker has posted a short excerpt from this cheery travel piece* by Mark Steyn. Here's a bit of local colour from Mark's visit to the town of Rutba:

But just what exactly was deteriorating? As my groaning table and the stores along Main Street testified, there was plenty of food in town. Was it the water? I made a point of drinking the stuff everywhere I went in a spirited effort to pick up the dysentery and cholera supposedly running rampant. But I remain a disease-free zone.

Obviously, Mark is a traveller, rather than a tourist. A tourist looking to catch cholera or dysentary in Iraq would have done a little preparation, perhaps checked out a couple of brochures at the local travel agent, rather than swanning off to a foreign country totally unprepared on the basis that this is the best way to learn about the country. Had he done so, he might have saved himself the pointless sojourn in Rutba, charming as it might have been, and gone straight to Basra where, if this MSNBC report is correct, he could have had a very satisfactory cholera and dysentary experience:

The Iraqi city of Basra made headlines recently when a deadly wave of cholera swept the area. But it was only the first problem in a summer health-care crisis that will get worse in the coming weeks. Even before the war, water filtration plants across the nation were in a state of disrepair. Patched up with second-hand parts, they chugged along with machinery purchased in better days. The war delivered the coup de grace. Many of those that survived the bombing and the fighting—and quite a few didn’t—were crippled by looters after it. In recent days, as the heat has crept up into the low 100s, so has the reliance of locals in towns across the country on the ancient, sewage-choked waterways of the Tigres and Euphrates rivers. The impact on Iraq’s children has been devastating.

The border city of Usaybah, on the banks of the Euphrates up by Syria, is typical. “There is no water except from the river and there is nobody to help me,” said Jossa Jamel as she sat with her infant son, who was stricken with diarrhea and started vomiting five days ago. “What should we do? There is no other way.” Each day in recent weeks, Hamdi al-Aloosh’s staff at Usaybah Hospital has treated as many as 30 cases of dysentery. And almost every day, he loses a child. “Everything is destroyed and the pumps are 25 years old,” al-Aloosh explained. Lately, his doctors have begun to notice another disturbing trend: cases of typhoid, another deadly water-borne killer, may soon rise to epidemic proportions.

* - registration required.

Update: I just found this page on Rutba. For what it's worth:

Rutba is a dirty little desert town which has grown up around a border post. Because although it lies some 60 km inside Iraq, the open desert roads mean all traffic in and out of Iraq to Jordan pass through Rutba.

Make of that what you will.

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