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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Top relief official says UN and partners doing 'everything they can' for people in Fallujah

2 June 2016 – Expressing his deep concern at the plight of civilians trapped in the besieged Iraqi city of Fallujah in Iraq, the most senior United Nations relief official today underlined that the Organization and its partners are doing everything they can to scale up humanitarian assistance.

"In the past two weeks close to 5,000 people have managed to leave, hundreds of them enduring risky and harrowing escapes on foot, in soaring temperatures, to reach safety," Stephen O'Brien, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said in a statement.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which Mr. O'Brien heads, an estimated 50,000 civilians, including at least 20,000 children, are unable to leave Fallujah, where a major military operation against ISIL is under way. They reportedly face grim conditions, including shortages of food, clean drinking water and medicines.

"We and our partners continue to hear alarming reports of civilian casualties in Fallujah due to heavy shelling, of several hundred families being used as human shields by ISIL, and of children at risk of forced recruitment by fighting parties or of being separated from their families," he warned.

"Civilians must be allowed to freely move to safer areas and all who flee must be granted aid and protection. Those detained for security screening must be treated lawfully and their rights upheld. All parties to this conflict are obliged to abide by international humanitarian and human rights law and do everything possible to protect civilians," he added.

The UN official indicated that the Government of Iraq and humanitarian partners have set up camps in the Ameriyat al-Falluja district, where the authorities are helping to transport families escaping the city and providing information for people wanting to leave. Meanwhile, the humanitarian community continues to provide people fleeing the city with water, health care, food, shelter and other emergency assistance.

"We and our partners are doing everything we can to scale up our assistance. It is vital that aid workers are guaranteed safe, secure and unhampered access in this fluid and dangerous environment," he insisted.

Across Iraq, 10 million people need some form of humanitarian assistance, and a further three million are thought to be living in areas under ISIL control.

"As the Muslim world prepares to mark the holy month of Ramadan, we must show the children, women and men of Iraq that the world is committed to helping them at their most desperate time," Mr. O'Brien concluded.

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