Besieged Iraqis in Falluja city run out of food, medicine

Besieged run out of food, medicine in DAESH controlled western city of Falluja in Anbar province due to siege by Iraqi security forces

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Iraqi security forces gathering at Fallujah, July 6, 2015.

Updated Feb 3, 2016

Tens of thousands of trapped Iraqi civilians are running out of food and medicine in the western city of Falluja, a DAESH stronghold under siege by security forces according to local officials and residents.

The Iraqi Army, police - backed by air strikes from a US-led coalition -  and Iranian-backed militias late last year imposed a near total siege on Falluja, located 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad in the Euphrates river valley.

The city's population is suffering from a shortage of food, medicine and fuel, residents and officials told Reuters by phone, and media reports said several people had died due to starvation and poor medical care. Poor communications inside the city make those reports difficult to verify.

Sohaib al Rawi, the governor of Anbar province where Falluja is located, appealed to the coalition to air-drop humanitarian supplies to the trapped civilians. He said this was the only way to deliver aid after DAESH mined the entrances to the city and stopped people from leaving.

"No force can enter and secure (the delivery) ... There is no option but for airplanes to transport aid," he said in an interview with al Hadath TV late on Monday, adding the situation was deteriorating day by day. Falluja was the first Iraqi city to fall  to DAESH in January 2014.

Since recapturing the city of Ramadi from DAESH a month ago, Iraqi authorities have not made it clear whether they will attempt to take Falluja next or leave it contained while the bulk of their forces head north towards Mosul, the largest city under the terrorists' control.

Falih al Essawi, deputy chief of Anbar's provincial council, said DAESH had turned Falluja into "a huge detention centre."

"Security forces managed to control almost all areas around Falluja. This victory has helped to reduce DAESH attacks outside the city, but it cost too much because civilians now are paying the price," he said from Ramadi, warning of a potential humanitarian disaster.

A doctor at a hospital in Falluja said medicine and supplies were running low, especially for post-natal care.

"What is the sin of those born after living in their mothers' womb without nutrition or protection except from God?" she said.

The US-led coalition, which includes European and Arab powers, dropped food and water in 2014 to members of Iraq's minority Yazidi community trapped on Mount Sinjar by DAESH as the humanitarian crisis on ground sparked an international air campaign.

A Baghdad-based spokesman for the coalition did not rule out a similar operation in Falluja but said DAESH's control of the city made it more challenging.

"The thing about an air-drop is it's very difficult to control who gets it," said US Army Col. Steve Warren. "The conditions have to be such that the people who you want to receive the supplies are actually able to receive them and there's no evidence that that's the case in Falluja."

He said media reports of up to 10 deaths due to starvation and insufficient medical care were accurate, but local officials could not provide details.

The United Nations appealed on Sunday for $861 million to help Iraq meet a big funding gap in its 2016 emergency response to the humanitarian crisis caused by the war against DAESH which has left 10 million people in need of urgent aid.

TRTWorld and agencies