NEW YORK, 21st June, 2016 (WAM) — The United Nations has released US$15 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund, CERF, to provide urgent life-saving assistance for people affected by the recent fighting and military operations in Fallujah.

“People escaping Fallujah are in desperate need of assistance now, this minute. We must act fast before this situation becomes a humanitarian catastrophe. These funds are time critical, but they only offer a small portion of what is urgently needed,” said the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, in a statement issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA.

“I call on donors to immediately support our humanitarian response and leverage this CERF allocation with additional resources so that together we can effectively address the growing humanitarian needs throughout Iraq,” he added.

During this past month, more than 85,000 people have been forced to flee the city, displacing families from their homes, communities and livelihoods. Those remaining in the city face dire shortages of food, medicine, electricity and safe drinking water, OCHA said.

“The families who have managed to flee Fallujah have escaped with nothing, they need everything,” warned Lise Grande, Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq.

“Humanitarian partners are working around the clock to provide shelter, water, health care, household kits and specialised support for the victims of gender and sexual-based violence. This CERF grant will allow us to rapidly scale up our efforts, so it could not be more timely,” she added.

The UN Humanitarian Response Plan in Iraq has called for US$861 million to address the needs of people affected by the current crisis. To date, the appeal is only 36 percent funded, OCHA said, adding that a further US$65 million will be needed to respond to the current situation in Fallujah.