MSF: Iraqis fleeing Fallujah face crisis

2016-06-14 18:17
Smoke rises after airstrikes by US-led coalition warplanes as Iraqi security forces advance their positions in Fallujah. (Osama Sami, AP)

Smoke rises after airstrikes by US-led coalition warplanes as Iraqi security forces advance their positions in Fallujah. (Osama Sami, AP)

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Dubai - Doctors Without Borders said on Tuesday that thousands of Iraqi civilians fleeing the besieged city of Fallujah have been without access to medicine for months and are fleeing to areas without adequate water and sanitation, raising the likelihood of epidemics like cholera.

The medical aid group, known by its French acronym MSF, is assisting about 20 000 civilians from Fallujah who have fled to three main sites. The Islamic State group seized the city more than two years ago.

The head of MSF's mission in Iraq, Fabio Forgione, said families who have fled to camps are facing a lack of shelter and clean drinking water. A cholera outbreak last year infected about 2 800 people in Iraq.

He said doctors were also treating people with conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes who haven't had access to medications. There have also been food shortages reported in the city.

"We are extremely concerned about the situation in Fallujah. We're talking about a city which has been besieged now for months, where access to care, access to food, access to assistance has been extremely hampered," said Forgione.

Living in camps

MSF has deployed mobile health clinics near the front-lines to provide basic services to families who have been able to flee. Fallujah is located 65km west of Baghdad.

The UN estimates about 50 000 civilians are trapped inside the city and that 42 000 people have fled Fallujah since a military operation to retake the city began in late May. Organisations such as MSF and The Norwegian Refugee Council say the number of those who've fled is closer to 30 000, lower than the UN estimate.

The conflict in Iraq has forced 3.3 million people to flee their homes. Iraq is also hosting between 250 000 and 300 000 refugees from neighbouring Syria who need medical assistance and mental health care, Forgione said. Most are living in camps or informal settlements.

"This is one of the worst humanitarian crises Iraq has been facing in the last 10 years," he said.

Read more on:    msf  |  iraq

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