Humanitarian agencies are rushing to assist more than 90,000 people who have been displaced by fighting in Iraq’s Anbar province, the United Nations said Sunday.
BAGHDAD –– More than 90,000 people have been displaced by fighting between Iraqi government forces and Islamic State group militants in the western province of Anbar, the United Nations said Sunday.
Humanitarian agencies are rushing to assist the displaced people, the U.N. said.
“Our top priority is delivering lifesaving assistance to people who are fleeing — food, water and shelter are highest on the list of priorities,” Lise Grande, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, said in a statement.
“Seeing people carrying what little they can and rushing for safety is heartbreaking,” she said. “We are very worried about people’s safety; the situation is dramatic, and only urgent action can save lives.”
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Government troops, backed by tribal paramilitaries, started a counterattack on Saturday against jihadists in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar, Iraq’s largest province. The Islamic State group pushed deep into Ramadi last week.
Many of the displaced people say they are denied entry into Baghdad unless they have sponsors in the capital, a requirement that has left thousands stranded on the outskirts, according to media.
Officials have said the restrictions are part of security measures to prevent militants from entering Baghdad.
The government said Sunday that it began a big relief operation for civilians escaping from Anbar.
The refugees are taken from evacuation points outside Anbar to temporary shelters in Baghdad, said Jassem al-Falahi, an Environment Ministry official.
The U.N. estimates that at least 2.7 million Iraqis have been displaced in the country since January 2014, including 400,000 from Anbar, where militants established a foothold more than a year ago.
The U.N. has warned that humanitarian operations in Iraq could soon be curtailed unless they get more money.
“We are doing what we can to help,” Grande said, “but the humanitarian operation in Iraq is severely underfunded.”