ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Nasiriya is a city of 300,000 in south-central Iraq where a major road crosses the Euphrates and other highways converge. During the war, U.S. forces fought tough battles here against Iraqi militia trying to stop coalition convoys as they headed north to Baghdad.
Now, a little more than a month later, camels and sheep meander across the bridge where some of the heaviest fighting took place. About 900 U.S. troops remain in this city, and on the surface, Nasiriya seems at peace. But dangers persist that are almost as threatening to people here as war-- badly damaged water systems, for example.
Children wade in putrid ponds and scoop up dirty water to drink. Coalition bombing and looting after the war damaged the city's electricity and water plants, and though U.S. troops are trying, the systems aren't fixed yet. At night, as the city cools, people gather and complain.
PERSON ON STREET (Translated): No democracy, no services. Saddam Hussein was much better than the Americans. Yes, he was a tyrant, but now we don't have power or water or medicine. No work, no salaries. None of the city workers have been paid. How can we survive?
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: That question haunts the man in charge of the U.S. Military's reconstruction work here. Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Holshek heads an army civil affairs group.
LT. COL. CHRISTOPHER HOLSHEK: The thing about this kind of a mission is the meter's ticking, and every day that goes by that we're not delivering the goods is one more day that we have to try and maintain credibility among these people, and, as I say, when you don't deliver, you know, sooner or later they begin to wonder about your sincerity.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Iraqis are beginning to wonder.
PERSON ON STREET: They want their salary. They are angry at American forces here, yes? And they do not understand who do the problems. Yes? Who do the problems? Who do the problems, the American side or the Iraqi side?
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: These public employees haven't gotten a salary or pension since the war began. They're gathered outside the headquarters for the military civic action programs here, the nerve center for those trying to ease this city's woes. Inside, soldiers and civilians from aid groups were meeting to coordinate their work.
MAJOR CHRIS STOCKEL, 402nd Civil Affairs Battalion, U.S. Army: The good news is I think it's going to be about ten degrees cooler than it was yesterday. We predicted 106. We heard that it was up to 115. We'll start off in the morning with Sergeant Race right here and he will give us our intel and weather briefing and that if everybody that is new and we take the opportunity, afterwards we'll update the boards. The engineers continue to update the project boards. I know there's some discussion going on there. I'd like to get the board up and running 100 percent by today.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: After a report on the latest security situation, aid groups described their work.
MILITARY SPOKESWOMAN: Stephanie from War Child so you have your bakery --
AID WORKER: On the bakery front, all the equipment is now in the warehouse; thanks very much to the guys who brought the forklift yesterday, so we got the oven in. So we'll be going ahead with installation over the next few days. We actually have a technical team coming up for the installation today.
That's about it at the moment. The only thing I wanted to bring this morning was that earlier on this morning we actually have another unexploded ordinance at our accommodation site. So if we could get someone to have a look at that, it would be great.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Later, the military side discussed what the soldiers could do to help.
SPOKESMAN: They needed a high lift crane, not one with a lot of lift capacity but one with a lot of reach to get those towers back up again. These are the ones down toward Basra, right?
SPOKESMAN: These are the ones
SPOKESMAN: The ones going North?
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The list of problems is daunting, but already some solutions are under way. On this afternoon, soldiers provided security for a shipment of medicines flown in by military transport for the humanitarian group, GOAL.
Coalition bombing destroyed a hospital and pharmaceutical warehouse much of the Nasiriya region depended on. Donna Smith had organized the shipment, which was paid for partly with funds from the U.S. Agency for International Development
DONNA SMITH, GOAL Ireland: This is the beginning of the supply of drugs to try to meet the needs of a million and a half people. The needs are very very great because they do have chronic diseases of hypertension and diabetes.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Across town, the British group War Child was unloading equipment for an emergency bakery. Norman Sheehan is the organization's CEO.
NORMAN SHEEHAN: This bakery unit will provide bread for vulnerable groups in situations such as hospitals, orphanages, and schools in the area. And it has the capacity of doing 240,000 Arabic breads per day if we need that requirement.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Why is this necessary here?
NORMAN SHEEHAN: There's an extreme shortage of propane fuel, gas fuel, kerosene. Kids are cutting down trees in the town and the capacities here cannot meet the demand.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Kids are cutting down trees for fuel?
NORMAN SHEEHAN: Exactly. What we'd like to do is stop the kids from going further and further afield, because what's happening is they come across cluster munitions, in gathering firewood, the kids are being maimed, are being killed.
MILITARY OFFICER : Here's another round, still live. It's just an antiaircraft round. This is real typical to find.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Unexploded ordinance is ubiquitous in Nasiriya. Petty Officer Jeff Ham, on assignment from the navy, took us to just one of many sites.
MILITARY OFFICER : If you step on that round, it'll pretty much blow you up.
PETTY OFFICER 1ST CLASS JEFF HAM, U.S. Navy: There was a report the other day-unconfirmed report the other day-- that a kid was killed two days ago from playing with some UXO, and about four days before that there was a kid playing with something and it blew up and killed him and two of his friends.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The unexploded ordinance is threatening, but U.S. forces here face even more immediate concerns. The civil affairs teams that work out of this building are supposed to help with humanitarian and reconstruction aid, and they do, but a lot of their time is still taken up with security crises, because looting and other serious crimes continue.
SPOKESMAN: There were three guys, they took off, they wrapped an AK-47 up with a cloth, and one of them had a grenade.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: For example, during a visit one afternoon to the operations center, word came that one of Nasiriya's last garbage trucks had been hijacked.
SPOKESMAN: So they kidnapped and car jacked. We got to put this all in the police report, okay. And get Colonel Murphy's people on it. Maybe we can find out what is going on. My friend you are having a very busy day.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The garbage truck was eventually recovered, but on the same day two other vehicles were also hijacked.
SPOKESMAN: First of all there are four weapons safety rules…
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: U.S. Marines are helping train a new police force to deal with the lawlessness, but meanwhile, security problems are slowing down the reconstruction of Iraq.