Falluja Humanitarian Crisis


ALLUJA, Iraq, Nov 10 (Reuters) - Fighting in Falluja has created a
humanitarian disaster in which innocent people are dying because medical
help cannot reach them, aid workers in Iraq said on Wednesday.

In one case, a pregnant woman and her child died in a refugee camp west of
the city after the mother unexpectedly aborted and no doctors were on hand,
Firdoos al-Ubadi, an official from the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, told
Reuters.

In another case, a young boy died from a snake bite that would normally
have been easily treatable, she said.

"From a humanitarian point of view it's a disaster, there's no other way to
describe it. And if we don't do something about it soon, it's going to
spread to other cities," she said...

Between a nightly curfew and the danger of venturing onto the streets, many
are effectively trapped at home.

"We've asked for permission from the Americans to go into the city and help
the people there but we haven't heard anything back from them," Ubadi said.
"There's no medicine, no water, no electricity. They need our help."

The Red Crescent Society has teams of doctors and relief experts ready to
go in to each of Falluja's districts with essential aid, but needs U.S.
approval first.

The U.S. military was not immediately available to comment on the aid
agency's request, but has said its first priority is to defeat the rebels
holed up in Falluja…

On Tuesday, a 9-year-old boy died after being hit in the stomach by
shrapnel. His parents were unable to get him to hospital because of the
fighting and so resorted to wrapping a sheet around him to stem the blood
flow.

He died hours later of blood loss and was buried in the garden of the
family home.

"We buried him in the garden because it was too dangerous to go out," said
his father, teacher Mohammed Abboud. "We did not know how long the fighting
would last."

The International Committee for the Red Cross says there are thousands of
elderly and women and children who have had no food or water for days. At
least 20,000 have gathered in the town of Saqlawiya, south of Falluja.

"The Red Cross is very worried. We urge all combatants to guarantee passage
to those who need medical care, regardless of whether they are friends or
enemies," spokesman Ahmad al-Raoui said. "They must be allowed to return
home as soon as possible."

Aid workers say there are still hundreds of families left in the city,
which has been pummelled by sustained aerial bombardment and artillery fire
in recent days.

"We know of at least 157 families inside Falluja who need our help," said
Ubadi.

For some it is already too late.

One mother and her three daughters had intended to flee but their home was
hit by a bombardment earlier this week and all died, neighbours who escaped
told aid workers

 


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