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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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Sea Levels Rising Faster & Higher Than Expected: UN Varsity

"When migration is the only way out, it turns into forced relocation, an option that is not attractive to many Marshallese families."

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In addition, with 12 inches of sea level rise, visits would be reduced by about 24 per cent, a figure that could mean hundreds of thousands in lost revenue, as per the researchers.  Pixabay

Sea levels are rising faster and higher than previously expected. Long-term sea level rise will vary greatly depending on emissions, but could reach nearly four meters by 2300 if emissions are not reduced, experts with the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) said on Friday.

Extreme events at the coast, such as hurricanes, tsunamis and floods, that used to occur once a century, will hit many coasts every year by 2050, even under low emission scenarios.

This is especially problematic for low-lying islands, such as the Pacific Islands, which will suffer from disasters and see a loss of livelihood as sea water salinizes the soil and freshwater resources, hampering farming activities.

Some islands could become entirely uninhabitable because there is no more access to fresh water.

“Sea level rise is here to stay. Even in a wonderful, but completely unrealistic zero emission scenario, we will see the consequences of sea level rise,” said Zita Sebesvari, a senior scientist at the UNU-EHS.

“This is because the sea level rise we are experiencing at the moment is the consequence of global warming that started from emissions released decades ago. Because large bodies of water like oceans warm up slowly, changes in sea level lag behind warming of the atmosphere.”

According to the recently released IPCC special report on the oceans and cryosphere in a changing climate, for which Sebesvari was a lead author, by 2050 sea levels will rise by 20 to 40 cm globally.

There will be regional differences, but all parts of the world will be affected.

“After 2050, however, we could see anything from stabilization, if we stick to the emissions goals of the Paris Agreement, to the aforementioned four metres by 2300, if we continue with the current emissions.”

“What the report shows is that both mitigation and adaptation will be necessary. We have to reduce emissions to avoid the more extreme scenarios, but we also have to prepare for the extent of sea level rise that we cannot avoid,” said Sebesvari in a statement.

sea levels
People living in coastal areas are highly affected by economic losses caused by frequent flooding and the impact worsens when the sea level rises, making them more frequent, says a new study. Pixabay

As one of the lowest-lying island nation states in the world, the Republic of the Marshall Islands is particularly vulnerable to the rising sea level and other climate hazards, and it is already experiencing the impacts of climate change, such as salinity intrusion and an increase of extreme weather events.

In the last 10-20 years, more than a third of the Marshallese have moved abroad, mostly to the US.

“Marshallese cite many reasons for moving abroad, predominantly work, healthcare, and education,” said Kees van der Geest, a senior migration expert at UNU-EHS.

“Climate change is a big concern to them, but is not yet seen as a reason to move.”

However, a new study by van der Geest, together with colleagues from the University of Hawaii, does show a correlation between climate impacts and migration rates at the household level: Those who experience more severe climate stress, especially drought and heat, also have higher migration rates.

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Despite this finding, the study also shows that most Marshallese fiercely resist the idea that climate change could make their home uninhabitable and they would need to leave their islands someday.

They think that adaptation is possible, and with support of their government and international donors, they are finding ways to adapt. Recently installed fresh water tanks on the islands will ensure the availability of drinking water even with increasing salinity intrusion.

As the world leaders gather for two-week UN climate change conference or COP25, it is countries like the Marshall Islands that urgently depend on solutions and ambitious climate action.

“Adaptation must be considered as the first and preferred option,” concludes van der Geest.

“When migration is the only way out, it turns into forced relocation, an option that is not attractive to many Marshallese families.” (IANS)