This is the seventh sandstorm to hit Iraq in a month. This Thursday, one person died and 5,000 others went to the hospital, affected by respiratory problems, announced the Ministry of Health.

Residents of seven Iraqi provinces, including the capital Baghdad and the large semi-desert region of Al-Anbar in the west of the country, once again woke up to discover a thick orange cloud, with the sand infiltrating in the houses.

Sandy containment

“One death has been recorded in Baghdad and [les hôpitaux] welcomed no less than 5,000 people so far,” Health Ministry spokesman Seif al-Badr said in a statement. “The majority have left the hospitals,” he said, referring to cases which for the most part are “of medium or low intensity”.

The most affected are people with “chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma”, or even “the elderly” who suffer in particular from “heart failure”, he said. Health authorities in the provinces of Al-Anbar and Kirkuk, north of Baghdad, called on residents “not to leave their homes”, according to the state news agency INA.

May is going to be a tough month

Sandstorms have only worsened in recent weeks in Iraq, one of the five countries in the world most vulnerable to climate change and desertification. The central and southern provinces are among the most affected. Meteorological services expect these sandstorms to recur throughout May.

In the capital Baghdad, nearly a thousand cases were identified on Thursday, according to the Ministry of Health. Hospitals in Al-Anbar province have received more than 700 patients suffering from breathing difficulties since midnight Wednesday, according to a count provided by the spokesman for the local health authorities, Anas Qaïs, interviewed by INA.

“272 days of dust”

This is the seventh sandstorm since mid-April in Iraq, sometimes forcing the airports of Baghdad, Najaf and Erbil in Kurdistan to briefly suspend flights and leading to hospitalizations for respiratory problems.

During the next two decades, Iraq should experience “272 days of dust” per year and in 2050, the threshold of 300 days per year will be reached, assured in early April a senior official of the Ministry of the Environment, Issa al-Fayyad . Among the measures recommended to combat this phenomenon, the ministry notably cited “the creation of forests which act as windbreaks”.

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