Fallujah refugee crisis the worst in UN history

fallujah dire crisis

This article….what can one say?! Apocalyptic” conditions…

Fallujah refugee crisis the worst in UN history

Tens of thousands of refugees fleeing the Battle of Fallujah are enduring “apocalyptic” conditions, aid agencies said yesterday as the UN announced it was facing the worst refugee ­crisis in its history.

Many are staying in squalid desert camps around the fringes of the Iraqi city, where there is a desperate shortage of food, water and sanitation. Families are being forced to sleep in the open owing to the lack of tents.

A man who gave his name as Azeez told aid workers he and his family had fled Fallujah in only the clothes they were wearing. “Until now we’re sleeping on the ground, in the dust. There are no tents, no mattresses, no toilets,” he said, speaking from the Amariyat Al Fallujah camp, where 2000 people are living. “There are two (toilets) designated for an entire camp. Women stand in line to enter the toilet from morning until noon.”

Nasr Muflahi, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s director in Iraq, said: “The conditions we are seeing in the camps are miserable, the scenes apocalyptic. We need the Iraqi government to work with the UN to step in and actually manage these camps so aid can be provided efficiently. And we need food, water, medicines and other essential aid to get in urgently.”

Karl Schembri, an aid worker with the Norwegian Refugee Council, described one camp he had just visited. “Believe me, it is a nightmare, hell on earth,” he said. “Screams, shouting, dust, heat, a woman collapsing with exhaustion; an elderly woman taking her last breaths surrounded by her family; children with nowhere to go; so many without tents or shelter; many for five days now. It is 48 ­degrees.”

According to the UN more than 84,000 people have fled fighting between Islamic State and the Iraqi army in Fallujah, which is 55km from Baghdad. The number has doubled in the past four days as many of those trapped by violence were able to escape after a decisive advance by government troops.

The Fallujah exodus comes as the UN’s refugee agency reported that wars in Syria and Iraq had pushed the total number of people driven from their homes worldwide at the end of last year to 65.3 million — the worst refugee crisis in UN history.

It is the first time that the number of refugees worldwide has passed 60 million since the UN was founded in 1945. The figure is greater than the population of Britain.

The UN report, released to coincide with World Refugee Day, estimated that 24 people a minute were forced from their homes last year — 34,000 people a day. Global displacement had doubled since 1997 and risen by 50 per cent since 2011.

“I hope that the message carried by those forcibly displaced reaches the leaderships: we need action, political action, to stop conflicts,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “The message that they have carried is: ‘if you don’t solve problems, problems will come to you’.”

More than half the total number of refugees came from three war-torn countries: Syria, ­Afghanistan and Somalia. More than a million refugees arrived in Europe last year but the UN said 86 per cent of the burden worldwide was being borne by low or middle-income countries close to scenes of conflict.

A UN-led appeal aims for $US4.55 billion ($6.1bn) in funding to cope with the Syrian refugee crisis this year but by April less than a quarter of that had been achieved.

Aid agencies reported that those fleeing Fallujah were already weakened by malnutrition after a long siege and many had been surviving for weeks or months on Euphrates river water and rotting dates used for animal feed.

“On a scale of one to 10 this is somewhere around eight, nine, 10,” said Ralph El Hage, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Baghdad.

An organization that I really respect has started raising funds for the refugees, please click here for more information on how to help:

And you can also give to my fundraiser for the Norwegian Refugee Council:

http://donate.nrc.no/help-children-escaping-war-in-fallujah-now/3-2533

 

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We Need Justice For All of the Babies

I’m not sure what to say, what can be said as I watch the media coverage of the current refugee crisis. By now most people have either seen, or at least heard about, the little Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, who was found dead on a Turkish shore, killed, with his mother and brother, trying to reach safety.

boy from syria

Shame on the systems that allow this to happen. Shame on the governments that turn a blind eye to the suffering, thinking only about politics. And shame on the politicians that start wars that cause this in the first place.

I guess my only consolation is that this image of that little boy will open more eyes to the tragedy, and perhaps open some purse strings. I have long pondered why and how people can turn a blind eye to stories of human suffering. But it’s an age old story: show them one child and they will care; it’s when people are faced with pictures of hundreds or thousands, faceless and nameless, that they tune out. It’s overwhelming I guess.  At least I choose to think that that’s the reason. I believe it on a good day.

And that is what compelled me to start this blog, to show the faces. Really, I had no idea what I was doing and I still don’t – I feel pretty helpless. I know that the situation in Fallujah is even worse than it was when I started this blog. The families are still dealing with the birth defects, and they’re dealing with war and fighting and death. What more can I add to this facebook post, from the Birth Defects in FGH (Fallijah General Hospital) page: “old pictures from 2011-2013 , we no more can see or document any case because nearly all fallujah residents including the doctors are displaced out living in tents , no health care , no jobs ,no food , because of the military operations and heavy bombings on the city.”

FGH

And I still don’t have any answers, except to keep writing and trying to find organizations that are helping, like Islah (Click here to read about how you can help the Fallujah Women and Children’s Hospital). And I can share the pictures of the babies in the hope that the world will take up the cause of all the suffering children, even the nameless and faceless ones…

Here’s How We Can Help: One Child at a Time…

I’ve written of ISLAH and the Iraqi Reparations Project before (see here for more information).

I just wanted to share their latest request:

AZRAQ’S EMERGENCY HEART SURGERY

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The Islah Reparations Project sent a small team back into Iraq this month to assess life on the ground for Iraqis and to determine the most critical unmet needs; the teamfound many (see update report.) Following a meeting with a well-respected cardiac physician, one case stood out as the most urgent, a young boy in need of heart surgery. The Islah team traveled into Kirkuk to meet the child and his family. The child at risk of further violence for his name thus referred to here as Azraq.

CLICK HERE to pay reparations to Azraq.

Help cover the cost of a life-saving heart surgery!

Our team entered a cinder block construction site where Azraq’s large family currently resides. With one UN camp in the area well over capacity serving 18,000 families, more than 10,000 families have been forced to seek shelter wherever they can. Azraq sat on the floor propped up by a cushion, uncomfortable yet remarkably poised. At age four he can’t run around and play like other children his age, stand comfortably, or even breathe at times; necessitating repeat emergency visits to the hospital to be placed on oxygen.

Medical Information

10917361_10152772251142759_5170933976434817887_nAzraq suffers from a Cyanotic Congenital Birth Defect. (1) He is one of over 200 cases of congenital heart defects his cardiologist receives per month from Fallujah. Research conducted to date marks a rapid increase in congenital birth defects since 2004 caused by chemicals used in U.S. weapons.

According to investigative journalist Dahr Jamail, “We are seeing a rate of congenital malformations in the city of Fallujah that has surpassed even that in the aftermath in the wake of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — that nuclear bombs were dropped on at the end of World War II…The amount of congenital malformations in Fallujah is 14 times greater than the same rate measured in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in the aftermath of the nuclear bombings…because of the amount of depleted uranium used by the U.S. military during both of their brutal attacks on the city of 2004, as well as other toxic munitions like white phosphorus, among other things.” (2) These chemicals have now seeped into the ground, the drinking water, and the very bodies of those from the area.

Pain, breathlessness, and endless doctors appointments have punctuated Azraq’s short life.

Azraq should be running around and laughing with other little boys right now. Instead, Azraq is clinging to life. He needs emergency cardiac surgery or he will die. His oxygen level is currently 40%. A healthy rate is around 98%. If he does not receive surgery immediately his oxygen level will continue to drop causing irreversible brain damage and death (one month ago his level was 45% and last year it was 60%.)

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Action Plan

The Islah Reparations Project was started by Americans who feel that they were/are complicit in war, occupation, and displacement and who want to take responsibility for harm committed in their name. ISLAH offers people of conscience an opportunity to put into action the words we speak and the goodwill we feel when we think about our position in the global order and the violence wrought to sustain that position.

Our goal is to raise money for Azraq to receive emergency life- saving medical treatment.Azraq needs to leave Iraq to secure affordable expert care, which can only be done in India, Turkey, or the U.S. We have chosen to send him to India where his treating physician has experience with the surgeon and hospital and where it is substantially less expensive.

His treatment and plain ticket will cost approximately $10,000. We’ve already raised $5,000 to put toward Azraq’s treatment. Will you partner with us? We can never make Iraq whole again. We can never take away the bombs that were dropped or heal the scars left by our actions in Iraq, but we can pay reparations to this little boy and his family.

CLICK HERE to pay reparations to Azraq.

Help cover the cost of a life-saving heart surgery!

(1) Cyanotic Congenital Birth Defect.

(2) Iraq, Ten Years Later, The U.S. Occupation’s Impact On Children by Dahr Jamail


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