More than 5 000 people were forced to seek medical assistance while one person died after a severe dust storm swept over large parts of Iraq on May 5, 2022. This is the 7th dust storm to hit the country so far this month.
According to the health ministry spokesman Seif al-Badr, one death has been recorded in Baghdad while hospitals across the country received no less than 5 000 people seeking help.1
“This statistic is not final. Most of the cases are minor to moderate, and most of the people have already left the hospitals.”
The worst affected are people with chronic respiratory diseases and the elderly who suffer in particular from heart ailments, al-Badr said, urging people with chronic diseases such as asthma to avoid leaving their homes.
Satellite images acquired on Friday, May 6, show a huge cloud of dust is now present further south over Saudi Arabia.
While dust and sandstorms have always occurred in the Middle East they have grown more frequent and intense in recent years, a trend that has been associated with overuse of river water, more dams, overgrazing and deforestation.2
An environment ministry official warned last month that the country could face 272 days of dust per year in the coming decades.3
In recent years, Iraq has seen record low rainfall and summer temperatures regularly exceeding 50 °C (122 °F).
Iraq’s water reserves are already 50% lower than last year, and the water resources ministry has warned that the vital Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which provide most of the country’s surface water, could dry up within 20 years.
1 The Ministry of Health records more than 5,000 cases of suffocation due to dust storms – Iraqi News Agency – May 5, 2022
2 Thousands sick as latest severe sandstorm sweeps across Iraq – AFP – May 5, 2022
3 Iraq dust storm leaves 5,000 people needing treatment – BBC – May 5, 2022
Featured image credit: N1 (stillshot)
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