Iraqis who flee fighting in Falluja find hardship and hunger

The New York Times reports: Out of security concerns, the Baghdad government, which is Shiite-led, has long restricted the movement of people between the capital and Sunni-dominated Anbar, almost as if the two areas were separate countries. For some agencies, it can be difficult and time-consuming to receive permission from the Iraqi government to travel across the bridge and deliver aid.

In some instances, aid agencies have turned to a powerful Shiite militia, Kataib Hezbollah, which is controlled by Iran and in charge of an important checkpoint in Anbar, to get aid to the displaced.

Also, as the offensive for Falluja unfolded, the Iraqi authorities were eager to facilitate access for journalists to the front lines, but have not allowed them to travel to areas to see displaced civilians.

It was only because of an invitation to join a local aid agency’s convoy on Sunday that a reporting team from The New York Times was able to visit the camps for civilians fleeing the violence around Falluja.

The government-controlled areas of western Anbar Province, a Sunni-dominated region that has been a heartland for the Islamic State, have become vast wastelands of human suffering.

Bare-bones tent cities are sprouting up all over, providing little more than basic shelter and some, but not nearly enough, food, water and medicine. The heat is terrible, always well above 100 Fahrenheit during the day, and most tents do not have fans or the electricity to run them.

When Iraqi forces reached his town of Saqlawiya, north of Falluja, last week, Hatem Shukur waved a white flag to catch their attention. In an interview, he said he and his family had been given cold water, watermelon, apples and bananas — delights after months of being under siege.

“But now we are facing another problem,” Mr. Shukur, 58, said. “Can you imagine your family living here in this heat?”

He waved his arm around the space where he and his family live, a small square of concrete floor, a metal frame and plastic sheeting for walls. On the floor, lying on a blanket, was his 8-month-old granddaughter, Rawan, flies buzzing around her as she slept.

Aid workers expressed frustration at their inability to meet the basic needs of civilians caught up in the war — there is not even enough fresh drinking water in the camps, officials said. There is always this question: Why is there always so much more money for military operations than for water and food for the civilians uprooted by them? [Continue reading…]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email