DfID said water supplies in Basra and surrounding towns are precarious, according to a report by the International Committee of the Red Cross. ‘UNICEF estimates that 150,000 children under five in Basra are now at risk of diarrhoea,’ it said. Al-Zubayr, Safwan and other towns in southern Iraq have been disconnected from supplies since 21 March.

The water pipeline built by the UK military to bring water from Kuwait to near Umm Qasr is now functioning. Coalition tankers have begun distributing water to some neighbouring towns. UNICEF has 40 full water tankers at the Kuwaiti border but the UN needs to be content with security in southern Iraq before they can cross, DfID said.

DfID said that the Red Cross had reported that western Baghdad has had no power since 27 March. Red Cross engineers are trying to ensure the city’s water treatment plants are powered by back-up generators. ‘UNICEF has brought in equipment to draw and treat water from the River Tigris and is finalising installation of 70 neighbourhood water tanks, in the hope of avoiding a repeat of the problems in Basra,’ the statement said. Serious water shortages are now also being reported in the Al-Anbar region, west of Baghdad, as a result of power cuts.