Tuesday November 20, 2018
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20,000 Children and their families feared to be trapped in Fallujah

There are fears that the thousands of civilians who remain trapped could be used as human shields by IS

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  • Children face the risk of forced recruitment into the fighting and separation from their families
  • Nearly 3,700 people, or 624 families, have managed to escape the fighting in Fallujah
  • Many Sunnis in Baghdad say they live in fear of the Shi’ite militias

BAGHDAD- Around 20,000 children are said to be trapped in Fallujah of Iraq as fight continues for control of the city which has been seized by Islamic State militants  two years ago

Since the Iraqi military operation began for Fallujah, 60 kilometers west of Baghdad, “very few families have been able to leave; most have moved to two camps while others have sought refuge with relatives and extended families,” according to the U.N. Children’s Fund. The U.N. agency also warns that children face the risk of forced recruitment into the fighting and separation from their families.

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Nearly 3,700 people, or 624 families, have managed to escape the fighting in Fallujah – a traditionally Sunni stronghold – since last week, said the U.N. There are fears that the thousands of civilians who remain trapped could be used as human shields by IS. Humanitarian agencies say those who have managed to escape describe a deteriorating situation where food and medicines are in short supply and the water unsafe for drinking.

Dressed in the black uniform of the Iraqi counterterrorism forces and flanked by Iraqi military commanders, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi urged the country’s armed forces to protect civilians as they fight to take the city.

Gunnery Sergeant Ryan P. Shane shot while trying to rescue wounded Marine in Fallujah.
Gunnery Sergeant Ryan P. Shane shot while trying to rescue wounded Marine in Fallujah. Image source: Wikipedia

Iraqi forces, including the army, counterterrorism units, special forces, local fighters and Hashd al Shaabi militias, have met with stiff IS resistance around the city.

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“A human catastrophe is unfolding in Fallujah. Families are caught in the crossfire with no safe way out,” said Jan Egeland, the secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council. Egeland said he expects the situation to quickly worsen as summer approaches, with temperatures likely to hit or exceed 50 degrees Celsius.

Civilian men screened

Iraqi forces, meanwhile, are separating out and screening the men, concerned about the loyalties of those who are leaving the city after living under IS rule.

“Approximately 500 men and boys over 12 years old are held for security screening, which can take five to seven days,” said UNHCR spokesman William Spindler.

Shi’ite presence

Hashd al-Shaabi has taken an important role in the fight against IS, and some see the pro-Iran militias as better trained than the Iraqi army. Others, however, are worried that a strong Shi’ite presence in the war against IS — whose strongholds are in predominantly Sunni areas — will only further aggravate the deep sectarian divisions that already exist in the country.

Many Sunnis in Baghdad say they live in fear of the Shi’ite militias, and human rights organizations have flagged abuses by the militias in the past.

Former national security adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie  said “I believe the Hashd al-Shaabi should have, and is having, a pivotal role in the liberation of our occupied territories.”

-prepared by Bhaskar Raghavendran (with inputs from VOA), a reporter at NewsGram. Twitter:  bhaskar_ragha

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Growth Hormone Deficiency May Also Hit Healthy Children

Since he started getting these injections two years ago, Spencer has grown about 15 centimeters.

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FILE - UNICEF staff measure a girl's height to see if she is stunted in a village health clinic of South Hamgyong province, North Korea. VOA

Most healthy children between the ages of four and 10 grow about five centimeters (two inches) a year. So, one family knew something was wrong when their son fit into the same clothes, season after season. Doctors were able to get him growing once again after testing for a growth hormone.

Eleven year-old Spencer Baehman is passionate about baseball.

“My goal is to play college baseball,” Spencer said.

There was only one problem. Spencer was the shortest player on his team. It didn’t stop him from playing, but the height difference was noticeable. And it made Spencer feel different.

“I want to be as tall as these kids,” Spencer said.

At first, Spencer’s parents thought their son was just small, but gradually, they suspected something was wrong. His mom, Stephanie Baehman, became worried.

“It really set in one year coming out of winter into spring when he got out his cleats for spring baseball and he put them on, and they fit. And they never should have fit. Those were from the spring prior,” Baehman said.

Spencer’s parents set up an appointment with Dr. Bert Bachrach, the chief of pediatric endocrinology at University of Missouri Health Care. Nurses measured Spencer’s height.

After careful testing, Dr. Bachrach determined a growth hormone deficiency was causing Spencer’s growth failure. Hormones are basically chemicals that send messages from one cell to another.

“Growth hormone just doesn’t affect your growth, it affects your muscle mass and fat distribution, so that affects your cholesterol, that affects you overall, it also affects your overall sense of wellbeing,” Bachrach said.

Young Kids learning
Young Kids learning. pixabay

Growth hormone insufficiency is a disorder involving the pituitary gland which is a small, pea-sized gland located at the base of the brain. It’s this gland that produces human growth hormone, among others.

Also Read: Poor Aerobic Fitness Increases Risk of Diabetes in Kids

Every day, Spencer’s mother gives him a daily hormone injection. Since he started getting these injections two years ago, Spencer has grown about 15 centimeters (six inches). But just in case he doesn’t grow tall, he has a reminder written in each of his baseball caps.

“It says HDMH, which means height doesn’t measure heart,” Spencer read.

And heart is something Spencer has plenty of. (VOA)