Iraq Reconstruction Making Gains Despite Insurgency
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 2004 Although headlines citing insurgent attacks tend to overshadow its efforts, U.S.-led reconstruction initiatives in Iraq continue to make progress, a senior U.S. official noted here today.
"Despite the insurgency in some areas of the country, our program is moving forward," U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Andrew Natsios told reporters at a State Department briefing.
Ongoing water, sanitation, electrical and other projects aimed at rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure after decades of neglect by the now-defunct Saddam Hussein regime represent "the largest reconstruction effort we've undertaken since the Marshall Plan," Natsios remarked.
"There is insecurity, indisputably," he acknowledged, in some portions of the country, principally in the so-called "Sunni Triangle," which includes the hard-fought Fallujah region. However, "there is relative stability," he said, in the remaining 80 percent of the country.
Iraq reconstruction efforts, Natsios said, are keyed on four major objectives: rebuilding of essential public services; renewal and reform of the Iraqi economy to produce jobs; health and education; and helping to construct government systems to support the new Iraqi democracy.
For example, electric power is being more equally distributed across Iraq and the country's electrical grid now produces about 5,000 megawatts, Natsios reported, compared to the 4,400 megawatts produced prior to the war. And, by April or May next year, he estimates that 5,500 to 6,000 megawatts will be produced.
"Right now we have between 11 and 15 hours of electricity in almost all areas of the country that are electrified," Natsios reported. By the end of 2005, he expects that 18 to 20 hours of electricity will be available around the country per day.
In the health public sector "we have now immunized over 3.4 million children under the age of five," Natsios said. And, rehabilitation work, he said, is ongoing at nine sewage treatment plants.
Modernization work to include new air traffic control systems, has been performed at the Baghdad and Basra airports, Natsios reported. And, he said, the Umm Qasr port has been dredged.
Improvements have also been made in the education realm, Natsios reported, where 2,500 Iraqi schools have been repaired, 8.7 million school textbooks - primarily in math and science -- have been provided, and 32,000 teachers have been trained.
About $3.6 billion has been spent on Iraqi infrastructure projects since last summer, Natsios said, with another $11.8 billion obligated to contractors for additional projects.
And, "thousands and thousands of Iraqis," Natsios noted, are working for contractors, non-governmental agencies and universities "to make, to build the new Iraq."