Situation in Fallujah "very dramatic", warns UN special envoy

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Civilians in Fallujah, Iraq, are at extreme risk and need urgent help. Photo: OCHA Iraq

The situation in the Iraqi city of Fallujah is best characterized as "very dramatic," the UN deputy special envoy in Iraq has warned.

Lise Grande, who is also the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the country, briefed reporters from Geneva on Tuesday.

Close to 50,000 civilians are now trapped as Iraqi forces attempt to re-take control of the city from the Daesh or ISIL terrorist group.

Jocelyne Sambira reports.

An estimated 5,000 people have managed to escape from the outlying areas of Fallujah city and not the centre of town, the UN deputy special envoy for Iraq has confirmed.

Many of the families have shared "dramatic" stories of walking long hours to safety, some of them coming directly under fire and even reports of families getting killed by Daesh extremists for trying to escape.

Lise Grande underscored however that the UN was not in a position to "verify or triangulate" the information.

Humanitarian agencies have not had access to the city since it fell to ISIL or Daesh terrorists in December 2014, the UN special envoy confirmed.

Ms Grande says the protection of civilians is a top priority for the UN.

"We also are receiving very credible reports that families are being concentrated and forced into the centre of the city by Daesh and they are not allowed to leave these concentration points. That would suggest that Daesh could be using them or may intend to use them as some kind of a human shield."

Commercial convoys have also had difficulty gaining access to the city since January triggering "widespread food shortages".

 The UN has urged all parties to the conflict to allow access to life-saving aid and to ensure the protection of civilians as per international humanitarian law.

 Jocelyne Sambira, United Nations.

Duration: 1’28″

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