As Americans head into Memorial Day weekend, in Iraq the battle to liberate Fallujah from ISIS rages on.
On Thursday, we shared an urgent update: an estimated 50,000 people are trapped in Fallujah—their food running out, their children starving. We shared our desire to save lives on the front lines, and we asked you to go with us.
And you did.
In the past 48 hours, you have given—and continue to give—tens of thousands of dollars for the children of Fallujah. Your generosity, along with our partners like World Help and World Relief, is bringing hope to one of the hardest places on earth.
Here is an update on the rapidly-developing situation in Fallujah and our response.
Q: What’s the latest from the front lines?
Military forces have begun liberating villages on the outskirts of the city. This week, they managed to repel ISIS from the strategically important town of Garma, a few miles northeast of Fallujah.
This is an encouraging development—because it’s an early step toward opening a humanitarian corridor providing safe passage for those trying to flee the area.
ISIS has threatened to kill anyone who attempts to leave. They’re using civilians as human shields. The majority of people are not yet able to escape, but as ISIS weakens—as they are pushed farther back—more families will be able to do so.
Yesterday, news broke that 460 families had been safely evacuated from the area. Thousands more remain trapped, but the situation is changing by the hour.
Q: What happens to those who escape?
Those who make it out of Fallujah are received at a security checkpoint operated by one of the military groups involved in the battle, just inside the front lines. They’re subject to a security screening and a three-day holding period.
Our fear, however, is that many families will be stuck in limbo much longer than that, especially as the number of refugees swells, potentially overwhelming the checkpoints. Some could be stuck for days or weeks before they are properly resettled in a displacement camp.
Q: What are your plans for delivering aid?
We’re working with local partners and government officials to bring lifesaving aid as close to the front lines as possible, so we can reach those whose need is most acute.
I—along with the rest of our Iraq-based team, both expat and local staff—are making preparations to be on the scene, serving alongside our Iraqi partners, feeding and caring for families inside the front-line checkpoints. Food supplies in Fallujah have been running low for months; many who escape are almost certain to be in critical condition. Our intent is to be there to meet their most urgent needs right away.
Recently, Iraq's president of parliament asked us to ready 150 tons of food for delivery to Fallujah’s starving families. The actual amount needed could change, depending on the severity of the crisis and how long the battle wears on. But we are ready to serve Fallujah’s families—now and in the days, weeks, and months ahead.
We will continue to update you as the situation develops. Thank for you for standing with the families of Fallujah. Every child you feed is another blow to ISIS. Your love is the first sign of hope that many of these families have had in years.
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Maps via Institute for the Study of War