The World Food Program reports it has distributed food to more than 30,000 people in a northern Iraqi town that has been under occupation by Islamic State militants for more than two years. WFP aid workers described scenes of extreme suffering.
The northern Iraqi town of Qayyarah, 60 kilometers south of Mosul, has been inaccessible to aid workers for more than two years. Battle lines have shifted and the Islamic State has lost its grip over this town, making it possible for the World Food Program and other agencies to deliver aid to thousands of hungry, deprived people in and around the area.
An Iraqi man walks near smoke billowing from oil wells, set ablaze by Islamic State (IS) group militants before fleeing the oil-producing region of Qayyarah, Aug. 30, 2016.
WFP spokeswoman Bettina Luescher said that last week WFP and its partners were able to assess the humanitarian situation and found all of the people remaining in the town were in desperate need of food and other essential aid.
“All of [Qayyarah’s] shops are either destroyed or closed. Food stocks have been running really low. People surviving only on wheat. Black smoke rises from the oil fields surrounding this town,” Luescher said.
WFP, through its local partners Muslim Aid and Women Empowerment Organization, has delivered enough food rations for 30,000 people for one month. The agencies also have provided food to almost 2,000 displaced people living in camps and with host families in areas surrounding the town.
Luescher said it is crucially important to have access to places like this that have seen so much fighting. She told VOA that WFP also has been providing food to many other people in this Mosul corridor.
“Last month, 130,000 people fleeing the conflict in Mosul as they arrived in areas nearby. Many people outside of Mosul have been settling in unfinished buildings. We provide ready-to-eat rations as soon as they reach those settlements and transit centers and within 72 hours when people flee, for example, from places like Mosul, we are there with ready-to-eat food,” Luescher said.
In this April 4, 2016 file photo, smoke rises as people flee their homes during clashes between Iraqi security forces and members of the Islamic State group in Hit, Iraq.
WFP and other aid agencies report they are scaling up their operations in preparation for the long-anticipated military offensive by Iraqi government forces to try to retake the city of Mosul from IS. The United Nations warns two million people are likely to flee the ensuing conflict.
Luescher said a contribution of nearly $28 million from Germany has made it possible to provide food aid to families being displaced from the greater Mosul area. But, she added an additional $106 million is needed to help increasing numbers of displaced people until the end of the year.