A severe drought is threatening Iraq's southern marshes - the traditional site of the biblical Garden of Eden - just as the region was recovering from Saddam Hussein's draining of its lakes and swamps to punish a political rebellion.
Marshes that were coming back to life a few years ago with UN help are again little more than vast expanses of cracked earth. The area's thousands of inhabitants, known as Marsh Arabs, are victims of the debilitating drought that has ravaged much of Iraq and neighboring countries in the last two years.
"I have no work. Our livestock have died, our children have left school because we don't have money to buy them clothes," said fisherman Yasir Razaq. He spoke in front of his wooden boat, which sat on a dried-up lake bed in the Hor al-Hammar marsh near Nasiriyah, 200 miles south of Baghdad.
"Before when there was fishing, we could get money for children's clothes," he said. "Now we have lost everything and our situation is miserable."
The Marsh Arab culture existed for more than 5,000 years in the 8,000 square miles of wetlands fed by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The marshes boasted hundreds of species of birds and fish, and periodic flooding created fertile farm lands.