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Iraq: trying to meet the humanitarian needs of Falluja

21-12-2004 Operational Update

In collaboration with the Iraqi Red Crescent, the ICRC is continuing to assist thousands of civilians around Falluja after the recent fighting in the city. The following is an overview of some of the most important activities carried out in December.

Thousands of people were forced by the violence to flee Falluja to neighbouring towns. Families are scattered in Falluja's surrounding areas such as Habbaniah, Saqlawia and Amiriat Falluja. Others have fled to Baghdad and neighbouring areas such as Karma and Albouissa.

Working closely together, the ICRC and Iraqi Red Crescent have provided a range of emergency assistance for these people.

For example, in early December the ICRC dispatched a water tank for the water purification unit in Habbaniah city where 1,500 displaced families from Fallujah are taking refuge.

In addition, more than 2,000 blankets, 350 kerosene stoves and 100 tarpaulins were distributed to 350 displaced families living in five schools and two public buildings in Amiriat Falluja. The ICRC also installed toilets and baths for the displaced. It provided water tanks and a generator to the hospital of Amiriat Falluja and rehabilitated the small water treatment plant there.

Relief assistance such as tents, blankets, kitchen sets, jerry cans and soap were also delivered to hundreds of displaced people in Habbaniah city.

In order to assess the humanitarian situation within Falluja itself an ICRC team has made two trips to the city. The first on December 7 was the ICRC's first since the US and Iraqi forces launched military operations there. The team was able to move inside the city where they found a significant number of homes damaged by the fighting.

The ICRC met technicians from the water a nd sewage board in Falluja who reported that four water treatment plants remained out of order. However, all sewage-pumping stations except one are functioning. No medical clinics are operating in the city.

The ICRC also assessed the needs of 120 families who found refuge in a cement factory at the eastern entrance of Falluja. 

The team visited the potato warehouse at the eastern entrance of Falluja where hundreds of dead bodies were reportedly stored. The place was empty, however, since the Iraqi authorities, in coordination with US-forces, had already documented and buried the dead. The ICRC is to follow this up with the concerned authorities in order to ensure that any human remains are properly identified and that affected families are duly informed.

In spite of severe security restraints across Iraq, the ICRC and the Iraqi Red Crescent retain their capacity to respond quickly to emergency situations.

After last week's attack on Najaf bus station for example, the ICRC arranged for 1.5 tonnes of medical and surgical supplies as well as 400 blankets to be sent to the Najaf health authorities to help them cope with the influx of patients.

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