UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
IRAQ: Fallujah residents angry at city's devastation
FALLUJAH, 13 January 2005 (IRIN) - Two months after a US-led attack destroyed much of the city of Fallujah, 60 km east of Baghdad, residents are angry and frustrated as they struggle to rebuild their lives amid widespread destruction and a lack of basic facilities, while reconstruction remains painfully slow.
Officials admit that rebuilding the city will take a long time. In the meantime, NGOs say that they are dealing with a growing humanitarian disaster. "The city is virtually destroyed and people who have returned are starting to feel the lack of assistance and poor health care, it's a humanitarian disaster," Abdul-Hamid Salim, a spokesman for the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS), told IRIN in Baghdad.
So far, as few as 5,000 citizens have returned to live in the city, according to US military figures, although the government has said that as many as 90,000 have passed through.
"I feel that I have to start all my life again, everything I have kept all my life, my home, my personal things, have been destroyed. The government said that they are going to help us but I haven't even seen a whiff of money," said Rubaye Kassam, a resident who lost all his possessions during the fighting.
The IRCS recently sent a special group to look at conditions in Fallujah. They found that the situation was still critical. IRCS spokesman Salim said that the organisation hoped to send fresh supplies in the coming few days, but added that much of the problem was still around the city. "People camped around Fallujah still need huge assistance as there are more people outside Fallujah than inside it."
The Emirates Red Crescent Society (ERCS) sent supplies to the camps around Fallujah just under a week ago and officials from the organisation confirmed that conditions were still critical, especially in the towns of Habanya and Saklaya. "They need help, the government is forgetting the people there," a volunteer, who declined to be named, told IRIN.
Maj-Col Mark Colin, spokesman for US Marines in the area, told IRIN that reconstruction would take longer than initially expected, adding that, according to the government, contractors would be ready to start work as soon as the elections on 30 January were over.
Thousands are still living in temporary camps around Fallujah as there is no way to go back to the city because their homes have been destroyed, or because US forces have closed the area to establish military camps.
Currently the city has less than two hours of water supply available per day, while electricity is still cut off. Families also are suffering due to the lack of food, heating or proper medical care. Doctors in the city said that health has not improved for many and people have to go through numerous check points to get medical assistance. "They need urgent heath help but we cannot move [around] and sometimes the delay may cause the loss of an innocent life," Doctor Abbas Rabia'a, told IRIN.
"I don't believe that the fighting in Fallujah is over, especially because I cannot enter my home and my parents' house has been destroyed. There isn't a minimum of respect in what they are doing to us and after all that they say that we have to go to vote on the election day, it's a comedy using innocent people as their actors," said Mustafa Aydan, a resident who has been prohibited from entering his home by the US forces.
Officials from the Ministry of Migration have told IRIN that the government will start reconstruction with government buildings, homes and shops and will also provide financial compensation to residents, but so far, citizens have seen no money and no evidence of rebuilding.
"I cannot believe what I have seen, Fallujah is not Fallujah anymore. My son cries when he sees the US forces and he is suffering psychologically. Is it right? Do the US forces and the prime minister believe that we are human beings?", Muhammad Obbaid, a father of four who lost his daughter in the fighting, asked IRIN.
Themes: (IRIN) Conflict
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