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.
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