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UK troops in Basra risk contracting malaria
Shyam Bhatia in Kuwait exclusively for rediff.com |
April 02, 2003 13:15 IST
British troops in Basra, Iraq, are at risk of contracting malaria.
Machar danis [mosquito nets], which are found throughout the subcontinent, have been allocated to them, but they are far from sufficient.
There are other problems, including shortages of toilet rolls, rations and water, but the lack of mosquito nets is the most serious because the area around Basra is known for malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
Some military camps near Basra have been described as 'marshes', forcing the soldiers to walk even while eating, just to avoid the insects.
Although around 13,000 nets have been delivered, only 6,000 have been allocated to the soldiers of the 7th Armoured Brigade outside Basra.
The soldiers have also been allocated anti-malaria tablets after medical experts warned how a bite could develop into malaria after a week with symptoms appearing up to a year later.
The symptoms include fever, chill, headache and diarrhoea. Malaria can be treated easily, but can be fatal if not diagnosed early.
The coalition troops are also facing an intense heatwave -- the first this season -- with temperatures set to soar as high as 41C [about 106F] by the end of this week, according to meteorologists.
As the war approaches its second week, British officers claim they have gained the upper hand around Basra.
The British have encountered fierce resistance in their attempts to take the city, but military planners say they have left open the "back door" to the eastern flank along the Shatt Al-Arab [A tidal river formed by the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers] so that Iraqi militia units can flee.
The British say they want to squeeze the city, but avoid a street fight.
West of Basra, the British bid to win hearts and minds has got off to a flying start with the opening of a 1.5mile long pipeline, built in five days by UK army engineers.
People who relied on the destroyed pumping station to the north of Basra can now take advantage of the two million litres being pumped into the area.
The plastic pipe, only eight inches in diameter, can bring 22,000 gallons per hour. A water truck with a capacity of 20 tonnes can be filled in half an hour and standpipes have been set up for people to collect water.
A spokesman for the British army units in the area said the water is being distributed for free, as a gift from Kuwaitis. He added: "This is a stopgap measure until the major aid agencies arrive. We are doing the best we can in difficult circumstances, but we believe the port area is now benign."
rediff.com Senior Editor Shyam Bhatia is the co-author of Saddam's Bomb, on Iraq's search for