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Five Years On - Iraqis Still Lack Basic Health Care, Clean Water

A new Red Cross report says that five years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, many Iraqis still lack adequate access to basic health care, sanitation and clean drinking water. VOA's Sonja Pace has more from London.

The Red Cross report paints a dire picture of Iraq today. It says that five years after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, millions of Iraqis face an extremely worrying humanitarian crisis.

ICRC Middle East spokeswoman, Dorothea Krimitsas explains.

"Actually, in most of the country, it is among the most critical in the world. Because of the conflict, millions of Iraqis have insufficient access to vital medical care, health care, water and sanitation," she said.

Lack of security has been the major concern. Since the invasion, more than four million Iraqis have fled their homes, half of them going abroad, mostly to neighboring Jordan and Syria, while the rest remain displaced inside Iraq.

Last year's U.S. troop surge has improved the security situation in and around Baghdad. But, the ICRC's Dorothea Krimitsas says life for millions of Iraqis remains unchanged.

"One's attention should not be distracted from the continuing plight of millions of civilians who have been left to their own devices and who continue to be often deliberately targeted, killed, injured on a daily basis in fighting and attacks," she said.

Krimitsas says today's humanitarian crisis in Iraq is not linked solely to the U.S.-led invasion, but to a culmination of decades of conflict and deprivation.

"Today, what Iraqis are experiencing is a crisis, which has been exacerbated by the lasting effects of previous armed conflicts, of decades of conflicts and years of sanctions," she said.

The Red Cross report says that in order to avoid a further deterioration of the situation, more attention must be paid to the daily needs of average Iraqis. The ICRC calls on those involved in the conflict to do more to ensure that civilians, medical staff and medical facilities are not harmed.