Fallujah has been in the news a lot over the past few days with stories such as this one titled “Mixed Iraqi force prepares for push into militant stronghold of Fallujah” and this one titled ‘A new formula in the battle for Fallujah”. And of course there are stories like this one that talks about “re-taking” Fallujah (at least the headline is a good one: “The latest battle in Fallujah is a symbol of the futility of US efforts in Iraq”).
But this is the one I want everyone to see:
No safe routes for civilians trapped inside Fallujah
As military operations to retake the besieged town of Fallujah continue, thousands of civilian families are trapped in the fighting with no safe route out, the Norwegian Refugee Council warned today. The lock-down for civilians trying to flee continued last night with no more families confirmed to have safely reached out of town. As of Tuesday morning, up to 50,000 civilians are believed to be trapped in Fallujah since military operations began yesterday.
NRC staff working in displacement camps outside the town say only 80 families have managed to flee to safety just hours before the fighting began.
“Nobody else seems to have been allowed out of town; there are thousands trapped in Fallujah with intense fighting raging on their doorsteps,” said NRC’s Country Director in Iraq, Nasr Muflahi.
“Families who have been suffering food and medical shortages over the last months now risk being caught in the crossfire, and it is absolutely vital that they are granted safe routes out of there so that we can assist them. All parties to this conflict have to provide safe exits for civilians.”
The few families who have managed to flee to safety in displacement camps speak of a dangerous journey out of the town ahead of the military operations. They have sought safety in camps in Amiryiat Al Fallujah, around 30kms away from Fallujah’s centre. NRC is present providing the newly displaced families with emergency water, food parcels and hygiene kits.
It is estimated that as many as 7,000 families will be internally displaced within Fallujah if the intense fighting continues. Iraq is facing a complex and multiple displacement crisis with more than 1.1 million people displaced inside Iraq last year alone. A staggering total of 3.4 million people are currently internally displaced across the country.
And then there’s this:
Save the Children calls for children and families to be freed from besieged city of Fallujah
Wednesday, 25 May 2016 – 12:16pm
Save the Children is increasingly concerned about the fate of up to 50,000 civilians prevented from escaping the new military offensive around the besieged Iraqi city of Fallujah, and calls for safe routes to be urgently established to allow children and their families to flee.
Fierce fighting is now raging around the city, which has been completely under siege for almost five months. Military checkpoints and IEDs planted along the roads by armed groups have stopped most civilians from fleeing and supply routes into the city have been completely cut off since January, with no aid allowed to enter.
Markets have exhausted food supplies and medicine is running out, leaving sick children and the elderly at particular risk. Thousands of children are suffering from a lack of milk, with the price of a single can of infant milk rising up to £35 at times during the siege.
The price of other staple foods, and fuel, has also skyrocketed – data gathered by Save the Children in March, after two months of siege, found that potatoes and sugar cost between ten to fifteen times more than normal. Children and parents have reported having no other choice but to eat soup made from grass or a handful of seeds.
Save the Children has received reports that up to 700 people, including 400 children, have managed to escape as of 24 May. However, many thousands more remain trapped inside.
“Food and supplies are not allowed in, and people are not allowed out. The town has been under complete siege for months and conditions inside are believed to be getting worse by the hour,” said Maurizio Crivellaro, Save the Children’s Country Director in Iraq.
“Now, as military operations intensify even further, it is literally a matter of life and death that children and their families are able to get out safely. All parties to this conflict must ensure safe routes for civilians, and authorities must ensure that children fleeing with their families are provided with the protection they need.”
My heart goes out to the families who have already suffered so greatly and who still suffer. I can’t believe that the situation in Fallujah has worsened to the point that the birth defects almost appear “minor” in comparison to the other pain and suffering of the people. I hope that the people can escape, that they can survive and that someday soon they can start to re-build their lives…no words, I have no more words…