I knew Baghdad was in bad shape, but I didn’t expect the vast expanse of urban slums that sprawl across the flatlands between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. I was also surprised to see that the effects of the coalition bombing and open combat were limited. In this city of 5.6 million, which was crumbling for a decade under Saddam Hussein, the most severe blow to normal daily life has been the mayhem caused by looters and thieves.
My work with International Relief and Development (IRD) brought me to Baghdad to help implement a Community Action Program. The need became visible as I visited neighborhoods. In one, where there was no sewage plant, residents were suffering from an inescapable stench and experiencing serious sanitation-related health problems.