2002: 20.5 2003: 13.6 2004: 25.5 2005: 34.5 (estimate) 2006: 48.5 (projected)
North - same or worse Central - worse South - same or worse
Sewage treatment and clean water -- taken for granted, perhaps, in this country -- continue to rate as extremely important quality-of life issues in Iraq. A top U.S. general briefed ABC News reporters recently and shared his frustration over the slow pace of clean water and sewage projects. "You cannot overstate this," the general said. "Iraqis drinking bad water, Iraqi kids walking in sewage. It's a killer."
Overall, our poll found yet another erosion in optimism here -- only 30 percent of Iraqis believe their clean water supply is "good," down from 58 percent just a year and a half ago, despite significant effort and money being spent on bringing potable water and sewage treatment to more Iraqis. According to the U.S. government, Iraqi Relief and Reconstruction Fund (IRRF)-funded water projects have added or restored potable water treatment for approximately 5.35 million Iraqis who did not have access to potable water in April 2003.
Facts on the ground help explain the poll numbers. Particularly in central and northern Iraq, the water situation has worsened. The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) finds a slight improvement in water supplies in the south, but a deterioration elsewhere. The United Nations reports a significant increase -- 70 percent -- in cases of diarrhea among children since January 2006; the rise is 40 percent among adults. The United Nations and other NGOs involved in water treatment say the highest incidents have come in the Anbar Province towns of Hit, Rumana and parts of Fallujah and Ramadi. Sixty percent of people in Anbar Province are currently drinking river water.
Violence and looting have hurt this sector, too. UNICEF transports water into Iraq each day, a service that reaches roughly 350,000 people -- but the organization's deliveries have been severely limited in the last year because of daily looting. Potable water systems throughout Baghdad have been destroyed, and aid workers are reluctant to move in and fix them because of security concerns.
Access to clean drinking water: 32 percent of population
Access to a good sewage system: 19 percent of population
North: same or worse Central: worse South: same or better
In our last report we were able to note "an almost unqualified success story" in the realm of education. Large majorities of Iraqis in the north, south and central parts of the country told us they believed that education where they lived had improved.