UNICEF calls for the protection of 20,000 children in Fallujah

2nd June 2016

DUBLIN / BAGHDAD, JUNE 2nd UNICEF is extremely concerned about the 20,000 children thought to be trapped in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, as government forces battle to re-take the area from ISIS.

Fallujah was the first city to be taken by ISIS in January of 2014. In the past week, Iraqi forces have stepped up their military operations against the group. At least 50,000 people are thought to be trapped in Fallujah and Ram– up to 20,000 of them are children. They are in grave danger of being used as human shields by armed groups.

Residents of the city face acute shortages of food, medicine and water since humanitarian organisations have not had access to them since last December. Children are especially vulnerable to family separation, exposure to improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and grave violations of their rights.

UNICEF has been responding to humanitarian needs in the transit sites, camps for Internally Displaced people and in host communities across the region since military operations began in March. We helped to prepare Ameriyat al Fallujah camp and other displacement sites to ensure readiness to receive families fleeing for safety from Fallujah and other frontline areas. 60,000 people have been displaced by violence since March, approximately 30,000 of these people remain displaced. 10,000 people have been displaced by this current escalation of military operations in Anbar governorate.

We are providing rapid response mechanism kits, water and sanitation, education, child protection, and health and nutrition programmes. UNICEF is also working on the coordination of humanitarian activities in the region, with the Government, the UN and other NGOs.

The items we are distributing as part of our rapid response mechanism kits bottled water, hygiene kits, soap and hand sanitiser, sanitary napkins and nappies for babies, bleach, and a 12kg ready-to-eat ration provided by the world Food Programme. Each kit supports a family of seven for approximately a week. We have provided 7,000 kits; kits are being prepositioned with partners to facilitate rapid response within 72hrs of displacement. Families receive immediate response rations at Ameriyat al Falluja camp.

Peter Hawkins, UNICEF’s Representative in Iraq has issued the following statement: “As the violence intensifies in Fallujah, children continue to be trapped in the city and its surroundings.

“UNICEF estimates that at least 20,000 children remain inside Fallujah, 60 KMs West of Baghdad. According to reports, food and medicine are running out and clean water is in short supply.

“Since the start of the military operation in Fallujah, very few families were able to leave. Most of these families moved to two camps while others sought refuge with relatives and extended families.

“As the violence continues to escalate in Fallujah and across Iraq, we are concerned over the protection of children in the face of extreme violence. Children face the risk of forced recruitment into the fighting, strict procedures for security screening and separation from their families.

“Children who are forcibly recruited into the fighting see their lives and futures jeopardized as they are forced to carry and use arms, fighting an adults’ war.

“UNICEF calls on all parties to protect children inside Fallujah, provide safe passage to those wishing to leave the city and grant safe and secure environment to civilians who fled Fallujah.”

Peter Power, Executive Director of UNICEF Ireland has called on all parties to conflict in Fallujah to respect children’s rights: “Children are entitled to safe passage under international law, it is crucial that this right is recognised and acted upon during the bloody conflict that is unfolding in Fallujah. UNICEF is calling for a humanitarian corridor to be established allowing for the passage of aid in, and people out.”

UNICEF estimates that $5 million is needed to cover urgent needs in Anbar Governorate. Click here to support our Iraq appeal.

Executive Director Peter Power is available for interview.

ENDS

NOTES FOR EDITORS

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