The inevitable happened in Fallujah and the world watched as pictures of desperate civilians attempting to cross the Euphrates River to flee the Iraqi city were widely shared on social media over the weekend. Two children, their mother and a man drowned, Thomsons Reuters reported June 7. Nine other people believed to have been on the boat remained missing. “I've seen with my own eyes my family disappear under the water," said Abu Tabarak, who watched the boat sank with his wife, son and daughter aboard. Fallujah-residents were viewed crossing the river using inflatable rings or makeshifts rafts made up of refrigerators and tires.
— Safa Majeed (@Safamajeed) June 3, 2016
In the past 10 days, approximately 10,000 people have reportedly come to government-set camps to seek safety and services, according to a joint statement released by UN agencies and IOM. “An estimated 50,000 people remain trapped in the city as the military offensive continues,” the agencies stated. Fallujah, located some 42 miles west of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, is one of the largest cities in the Anbar province. ISIL has been in control of the city since 2014. On May 22, the Iraqi Army and Shiite militias, backed by U.S. airstrikes, launched the offensive to retake the city.
Access to Fallujah has been nearly impossible for humanitarian actors over the past year, leaving residents in dire conditions due to the extreme levels of violence. In addition to violence, residents have had to cope with acute shortages of food, medicine and other basic services, such as water supplies, with no way to leave the city.
UN agencies and IOM reported that most people fled with just their clothes, and many families had been separated from male members who were undergoing screening. UN agencies and IOM are spearheading a joint rapid response to provide safe drinking water, food rations, and hygiene and sanitation assistance to families. IOM Iraq already distributed non-food item kits to nearly 1400 displaced families from Fallujah.
— IOM Iraq (@IOMIraq) June 5, 2016
Safety is reportedly a major concern, given that the front lines are just several miles from the camps. The conflict is expected to escalate and to lead to more people to be displaced.