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Iraq: Assistance for Fallujah returnees

Briefing notes

Iraq: Assistance for Fallujah returnees

11 January 2005

UNHCR is working with Iraq's Ministry of Displacement and Migration (MoDM) to help the people of Fallujah return to their heavily damaged city. Some 85,000 residents have entered the city to inspect their houses and assess the general conditions of the town since the end of the fighting in December. Our partners on the ground estimate that some 10 percent of them, or roughly 8,500 people, have remained in the city for good, although there is still no official count of the actual numbers. Recent reports suggest that whole families, as opposed to men alone, are now moving into the town.

Half of Fallujah's 18 quarters have now been opened for returnees, according to the MoDM (Al Bazaza, Al Jolan, Al Moalemmen, Al Dubat, Al Dubat 2, Al Resala, Al Shohadaa, Al Gogayth and Al Andulus). It has been estimated that in these nine quarters alone some 3,500 houses have been badly damaged.

In late December, UNHCR made available to the Iraqi authorities and other partners on the ground 50,000 blankets, 2,000 mattresses, 600 tents, 13,000 stoves and 300 heaters for immediate assistance to the returnees. An initial load of these of items has been put at the disposal of the authorities and the ministry has recently asked UNHCR for additional items in anticipation that more people will move back to Fallujah in the weeks ahead.

UNHCR, through its partners on the ground, has also been talking to displaced people outside the city to assess their needs and intentions to return. Many IDPs [internally displaced persons] said they intend to stay in their current locations until after the elections at the end of January. The reasons they gave for being reluctant to return right now include the tense security situation and the general lack of services, especially schools and hospitals. The general Fallujah hospital is open but it is located outside the areas open for residents, who have to go through checkpoints to reach it. Municipal water is available in the city for only a few hours a day. Although generators are operating, the electricity supply is sporadic.

In late December, UNHCR started distributing emergency supplies in cooperation with IOM [International Organization for Migration] to some 36,000 of the more than 200,000 displaced people from Fallujah in the Anbar Governorate. For that particular purpose, UNHCR has already handed out 3,800 blankets, 2,000 mattresses, 300 tents and 300 cooking stoves and is now releasing an additional 30,000 blankets and 2,500 cooking stoves. The assessment conducted by UNHCR's partner agencies also shows that a number of IDP families have purchased property in their current places of displacement. This may suggest that some IDPs are considering settling out of Fallujah for an extended period.