Reuters International

ROME (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Food aid has reached families in the northern Iraqi town of Shirqat for the first time since its capture by Islamic State militants more than two years ago, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on Wednesday.

The Iraqi military retook Shirqat district last week, after surrounding it for months.

Tens of thousands of civilians were thought to have been trapped in the town and nearby villages since 2014.

WFP said they have been living under "very harsh conditions", struggling to access water, food, medical services and local markets.

"Families in Shirqat are in desperate need of humanitarian support after being cut off from the outside world for more than two years," said Sally Haydock, WFP's country director in Iraq.

The U.N. agency has distributed rice, lentils, wheat flour, bulgur wheat, beans and vegetable oil for an initial 1,000 people, through its partner Muslim Aid.

WFP said it will monitor the situation and support people in the town and surrounding villages over the coming weeks.

Earlier this month, the agency distributed emergency food aid to 30,000 people in the nearby town of Qayyarah, which had also been under siege for more than two years.

The agency found that all its shops had either been destroyed or closed and people were surviving on wheat from the recent harvest. They also lacked safe drinking water, electricity and medical services.

The recapture of Shirqat is a stepping stone in the Iraqi military's move on Islamic State's stronghold of Mosul city, some 100 km (60 miles) to the north.

More than 3.3 million Iraqis have been displaced by fighting since early 2014, and up to 1.5 million more could be affected in the push on Mosul later this year, according to the United Nations.

(Reporting by Alex Whiting, Editing by Katie Nguyen.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit


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