A deadly outbreak of cholera in [ in Babil province], Iraq is being blamed on a scandal involving corrupt officials who failed to sterilise the local drinking water because they were bribed to buy chlorine from Iran that was long past its expiration date.
[...] The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has appointed a commission of inquiry to find out why ineffective chlorine was being used. He is also refusing to release three officials [from the Badr Organisation, the militia wing of Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI)] under arrest despite demands from the ISCI. In the town of al-Madhatiya, in southern Babil, a councillor involved in buying the chlorine was reportedly released after militiamen connected to ISCI intimidated police into freeing him.
The scandal over the contract is becoming a test case of the Maliki government’s willingness to tackle the pervasive corruption in Iraq [and its] ability to exercise central control over ISCI and parties which have been hitherto dominant outside Baghdad.
[...] An Iraqi government official, who did not want his name published, said the Health Ministry bought $11m (£6.4m) worth of chlorine from Iran for use in the provinces of Babil, Diwaniyah and Kerbala. [...] In the latter two provinces, officials noticed that the chlorine was old [...] and refused to use it. But in Babil the chlorine was put in the fresh water supply stations at al-Madhatiyah, al-Hashimiyah and al-Qasim, south-east of the provincial capital, al-Hillah. Soon 222 people were confirmed as having cholera in Babil, in a total of 420 cases of whom seven have died.
For updates of cholera in Iraq go the WHO web site
Source: Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, 10 Oct 2008