The Iraqi government is setting up a camp to accommodate an anticipated wave of civilians fleeing western Anbar cities ahead of the upcoming battles to oust the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) from these areas.
The camp will be set up in Haditha, and will be able to accommodate thousands of displaced residents escaping the border towns of Anah, Rawa and al-Qaim, Haditha municipal council head Khaled Salman told Diyaruna.
The plan was announced after extensive discussions about ways to ensure the success of humanitarian efforts amid the military operations.
On August 22nd, a delegation headed by Minister of Migration and Displacement Jassem Mohammed al-Jaf visited Haditha to meet with Anbar's al-Jazeera Operations Command and the city's local administration.
"There has been an understanding on completing all the preparations needed to help the fleeing families and provide them with a safe haven," Salman said.
"The minister decided to start setting up a camp in our city because of its proximity to the battlefields and because it is well-secured," he explained.
The camp will initially shelter more than 500 families and will be expanded to accommodate larger numbers depending on the course of the battle, he said.
"The ministry also is preparing to equip the new camp, which is the first of its kind in Haditha, to meet the requirements of relief and to meet all the urgent needs of displaced citizens," Salman said.
Western Anbar residents are fleeing their homes every day, he said.
"Most are heading to the city of al-Rutbah, where they are received by Iraqi security forces, who transfer them to large shelter camps in the province," he said. "Some of the displaced go to Haditha to live with relatives or in temporary housing."
The ministry has so far shipped 17,000 food baskets to Haditha.
Relief for fleeing families
The decision to establish a camp in Haditha is a "pre-emptive step" that will provide relief to fleeing residents, said Mohammed Rasheed, who heads Anbar's Migration and Displacement Department.
The new camp will alleviate the burden on camps in Ameriyat al-Fallujah and al-Habbaniyah, which have received dozens of displaced families from the western parts of Anbar, he told Diyaruna.
"Our readiness is high and we are able to respond quickly to the needs of those recently displaced by providing them with accommodation and integrated care services," Rasheed said.
He pointed out that 180,000 out of 350,000 families displaced by ISIS have returned to their homes in the liberated cities of Anbar.
Almost all residents displaced from the cities of Heet and Kabisa have since returned, and more than 80% have returned to Ramadi, Fallujah and al-Karama, said Anbar provincial council security committee member Rajeh Barakat al-Aifan.
"The camp intended to be created in Haditha could accommodate a total of more than 2,000 families," he told Diyaruna.
The Ministry of Migration and Displacement plans to open another camp in the area of Kilo-18 to accommodate more displaced families, he added.