Iraq faces aid disaster after Fallujah falls

2016-06-20 09:07
(Karim Kadim, AP)

(Karim Kadim, AP)

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Fallujah - Aid workers scrambled on Sunday to cope with a massive influx of Iraqi civilians who fled Fallujah after government forces retook much of the city from the Islamic State group.

Tens of thousands of civilians escaped the city, just 50km west of Baghdad, on the back of a major advance that saw Iraqi forces thrust into central Fallujah in recent days.

The humanitarian community has been struggling to cope, with thousands of people already suffering from hunger and trauma now stranded in the scorching summer heat with no shelter.

Humanitarian disaster

"The estimated total number of displaced from Fallujah in just the last three days is now at a staggering 30 000 people," said the Norwegian Refugee Council.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said up to 84 000 people had been forced to flee their homes since the start of the government offensive against the IS bastion nearly a month ago.

"Agencies are scrambling to respond to the rapidly evolving situation - and we are bracing ourselves for another large exodus in the next few days as we estimate that thousands more people remain trapped in Fallujah," the UNHCR said.

"We implore the Iraqi government to take charge of this humanitarian disaster unfolding on our watch," NRC's Iraq director Nasr Muflahi said.

NRC said it could no longer provide the required assistance, with water rations drying up fast.

It cited the case of a newly opened camp in Amriyat al-Fallujah, south of Fallujah, that houses 1 800 people but has only one latrine for women.

Gets hotter

"We need the Iraqi government to take a leading role in providing for the needs of the most vulnerable civilians who have endured months of trauma and terror," Muflahi said.

The temperature in Baghdad has been hovering above 40°C and it often gets hotter in the Anbar province, where inhabited areas along the Euphrates River are flanked by desert.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has promised to support the displaced.

Read more on:    iraq

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