Despite sand or dust storms, delivery worker Milad Matta can’t miss a day of work, and like the vast majority of Iraqis, his boredom doesn’t mask the phenomenon, which has reached unprecedented proportions in recent months.
Riding a motorcycle through the streets of Baghdad to deliver food to customers, the 30-year-old groom wears goggles to keep out the dust and pulls a gray neckerchief over his mouth and nose so he can breathe.
With dozens of these storms since mid-April, Iraqis have grown accustomed to waking up to gray and dusty skies, with no orange glow enveloping the country’s cities.
On several occasions, airports were forced to ground flights due to poor visibility, and again, on Sunday, Baghdad International Airport grounded its flights for several hours. Also, the Ministry of Health announced yesterday that more than 500 people have gone to hospitals across the country due to respiratory problems due to the new sandstorm.
“This is the first year of dust storms,” he says in one of Baghdad’s crowded squares. On the first Sunday of July, he had to endure temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius and a fresh dust storm. The young man adds: “The vision is blurred and you feel as if you are suffocating from the heat. If you are suffocating and can’t stand it, you should drink juices and fluids for your own safety.
When he got married and couldn’t stay away from his job, he earns a monthly salary of $600.
“I can’t stop working, I have a family and I have to take on this responsibility,” he explains.
In a country where most residents did not use masks during the “Covid-19” pandemic, a city where concrete buildings stand, despite the intense heat, is seeing an increase in the number of people wearing masks.
The main victims are the elderly and those with asthma or respiratory problems and heart diseases, who are considered the most vulnerable groups, according to health officials.
“The intensity of the storm has increased significantly and in the last few weeks, the number of days during which the storms occur has increased, resulting in an increase in the rate of suffocation cases,” said Dr. Saif Ali Abdel Hamza. Al-Kindi Hospital.
He added, “Most of the referred patients suffer from chronic diseases like asthma and bronchial allergies, and most of them are elderly.”
Iraq is one of the five countries most vulnerable to climate change and desertification, which officials say is one of the factors behind the proliferation of sandstorms.
In the next two decades, the country is expected to experience “272 dust days” annually, and the 300-day mark will be reached by 2050, an Environment Ministry official said.
Among recommended measures to combat the phenomenon, officials have mentioned establishing green areas around cities, but the country of 41 million people also suffers from water shortages and low rainfall.
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