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Coalition, Iraqi Ministry Sign Historic Public Health Charter

By Sgt. Kevin Bromley, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 9, 2005 – The children of Husseiniya, a town north of here, play among heaps of trash, lakes of standing groundwater and open sewage.

Several miles away, in northern Baghdad, U.S. Army Col. David Bishop, commander of 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division; Ayad al-Safee, the deputy minister of technical affairs for the Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works; Nanjar Manshed, the Istaklah district advisory council delegate; and representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers signed a charter Aug. 1 that will ensure the citizens and children of Husseiniya have a brighter and healthier future.

Husseiniya is a settlement that took root in the agricultural region north of Baghdad in the 1980s. Unfortunately, the Baghdad storm drainage and waste treatment facilities were designed and built from the late 1960s to early 1970s, and the previous regime never extended these basic public services to the area.

The population of Husseiniya -- now nearly 750,000 -- steadily increased in size as more and more people moved to the town with their families during the previous regime. This large influx of people from the towns surrounding Baghdad created a public-works crisis situation that continues to this day.

"If there is a situation below poor, we (Husseiniya) are underneath that. ... It's bad," Manshed said.

To correct these health and public-services problems, coalition forces and the Municipalities and Public Works Ministry decided a charter was needed to detail plans that will bring storm-drainage projects, water-quality improvements, and, most importantly, sewage-treatment facilities.

The Husseiniya Charter is the first of its kind in the area, and the projects that spring out of this agreement will improve the city's health and welfare, officials said.

"It is a great project to help the people. ... We will have healthy water and less disease from the sewage all over the city," Manshed said.

Local Iraqi contractors will perform most of the work on these projects, providing the additional benefit of employment for laborers. "The widespread use of the local workforce not only adds jobs but helps to spike the economy as wage earners buy goods and services in the area," said U.S. Army Maj. Scott Sill, civil affairs officer for 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division.

Coalition forces are involved in the planning and project-development stages, but the execution of the plans will be at the direction of the Iraqi government.

"I think this is a tremendous project for the people of Husseiniya. ... This is an Iraqi project; the U.S. forces are only providing some funding and oversight," Bishop said, adding that it will provide jobs and invite better living conditions for the people of this area.

Husseiniya's programs will serve as the test-bed and guide for other projects in different impoverished areas in and around Baghdad.

"What we do and learn here in Husseiniya will be used as a road-map for projects in other towns that desperately need basic essential services such as clean water, air, and waste removal," Sill said.

The ministry and the organizers of the charter group are hopeful the newly signed charter will be the springboard to additional charter groups and spread across the region to improve the lifestyles of Iraqi people across the nation.

"Hopefully, I will see the whole improvement from when they put the first shovel into the ground," Mashed said. "These projects will make the people in Husseiniya proud."

(Army Sgt. Kevin Bromley is assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Armored Division.)

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