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Electricity cuts across Iraq make life unbearable in summer heat

A man checks on makeshift electrical wiring in Baghdad. Photo: Sabah Arar / AFP

BAGHDAD — Power shortages have become endemic in Iraq — a country wrecked by a series of conflicts that have devastated its infrastructure — forcing Iraqis to buy electricity from private entrepreneurs who run power generators that can be seen on most street corners.

Why it matters: The problem was exacerbated last month after Iran stopped supplying electricity to Iraq because of unpaid bills. Protests over the shortages, lack of jobs and services and corruption have since rocked areas of southern Iraq, as well as parts of Baghdad. While those who can afford it pay an average of 125,00 dinars (approximately $100) a month to make up for the cuts, for many poor and working-class Iraqis, buying electricity is not an option.

  • From her television to her fridge, Umm Adil's electric appliances have become useless. "Sometimes, I even forget having them," she says. "I can't use the fridge," she adds, opening its door to empty out some food that went bad overnight. "I have to make just enough food for a single meal, otherwise, it goes off," she adds.
  • But it is not just such inconveniences that make life for many Iraqis difficult. Chronic power shortages make Umm Adil feel paralysed in the face of emergency situations and hopeless about a better future for her family. "The other day my son fell ill. With the phone's battery uncharged, I couldn't call [my husband] so I had to take my son to hospital alone," she says.
  • While power outages differ from one neighbourhood to the next — with some households receiving only four hours of electricity a day and others up to 20 — an alternative power supply is needed when the lights go off. This has created a huge demand, making the ownership of private generators a very lucrative business.

Where things stand: Successive electricity ministers have been sacked over corruption or forced to quit in the face of angry protests. “There isn't a genuine will in the ministry or the government to address the issue,” says Mushtaq al-Shimaly, head of the energy committee in Baghdad's provincial council. “If there was, things would have been a lot different by now."

Go deeper: Read the full report on Al Jazeera.