Iraq’s Fallujah facing ‘humanitarian disaster’ amid food crisis: NGO
The Daesh-held Iraqi city of Fallujah is facing a “humanitarian disaster” as many of its hunger-stricken residents remain trapped with no “safe passage” to make their way out, a prominent NGO warns.
“There is absolutely nothing safe for civilians fleeing Fallujah. No safe exits, no safe passage, no safe haven without risking their lives,” said the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), which works with refugees and internally-displaced Iraqis, in a Thursday statement.
Besides Mosul, Fallujah, a city in Anbar Province located roughly 69 kilometers west of the capital Baghdad, is one of the last two remaining bastions of Daesh in Iraq.
Since May 23, Iraqi forces have been engaged in a massive military operation to take back the city. They have liberated significant parts of southern Fallujah since the beginning of June.
Having suffered heavy blows at the hands of Iraqi troops, Daesh terrorists have now resorted to hostage taking among civilians, using them as human shields in order to blunt the advance of Iraqi armed units.
“We have a humanitarian disaster inside Fallujah and another unfolding disaster in the camps,” said the NRC statement.
The aid body’s chief, Jan Egeland, also said “thousands fleeing the cross-fire after months of besiegement and near starvation deserve relief and care, but our relief supplies will soon be exhausted.”
Elsewhere in the statement, the Norwegian aid group said a two-year-old boy had been shot dead by Daesh militants while trying to escape the violence with his family.
The Daesh gunfire struck the mother’s shoulder and killed the child she was carrying away, according to the report.
The NRC statement cited a relative as saying that the mother and her two sons and three daughters, all under eight years old, had joined other fleeing residents in their her fifth attempt to leave the city.
“They had to walk for an hour through agricultural water channels, immersed up to their chest” to avoid Daesh terrorists, said the relative, adding, “The children were getting agitated and uncomfortable in the water, making noises just as they were about to dash out. At that point, they must have attracted the attention” of Daesh militants.
Last week, the Iraqi army opened a corridor to facilitate the flow of civilians trying to leave Fallujah. The passage has allowed thousands to escape but remains hard to reach from some neighborhoods.
Tens of thousands of civilians are still believed to be stranded in the city.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) recently said over 430,000 people have been uprooted from their homes since the beginning of the Fallujah liberation operation in late May.
Meanwhile, reports coming out of the Fallujah battlefield indicate that Iraqi forces continue their advances against Daesh militants holed up there, and have now reached a central street in the city.
Iraqi security forces entered Fallujah on Wednesday.
Federal Police Commander Lieutenant General Ra’ed Shaker Jawdat said the armed forces also dismantled 15 Daesh vehicles packed with explosives during their military offensive.
More than three million Iraqis have fled their homes since a lightning Daesh offensive in 2014 saw swathes of the country fall into extremist control.