At least 30,000 people have fled from intense fighting in the Iraqi city of Fallujah in the past three days, prompting warnings of an impending humanitarian disaster. Civilians grabbed their chance to escape the bombs and rocket fire and headed to refugee camps after government forces seized control of the centre of the city. on Thursday. But they have found themselves in camps struggling to cope with the influx, with many having to sleep in the open under scorching summer sun, according to refugee organisations. “We implore the Iraqi government to take charge of this humanitarian disaster unfolding on our watch,” Norwegian Refugee Council’s Iraq director Nasr Muflahi said on Sunday.
We need the Iraqi government to take a leading role in providing for the needs of the most vulnerable civilians who have endured months of trauma and terror
NRC’s Iraq director Nasr Muflahi
The 30,000 refugees join an estimated 32,000 who have already fled Fallujah which has been under Islamic State control for two years. Hundreds of families, including the most vulnerable such as the elderly and pregnant women, are feared to still be trapped inside the city, where IS fighters are still holding out in the north. The ordeal for the refugees - there is only one toilet for 1,800 women in one camp - was in sharp contrast to the celebrations in Baghdad where bikers paraded through Tahrir Square and fireworks lit up the sky to celebrate the IS defeats. But the refugee crisis is only likely to deepen as the government now plans a fresh push to regain control of the country’s second largest city, Mosul.
People have run and walked for days. They left Falluja with nothing. They have nothing and they need everything.
Lise Grande, U.N. humanitarian co-ordinator for Iraq