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Iraqis Who Flee ISIS Fear Losing Aid After 'Devastating' U.N. Shortfall

Iraqi refugees fleeing ISIS are living in fear swathes of humanitarian health services risked being axed because of a lack of international funding.

Where Did ISIS Come From?

Aug. 27, 201403:11

Iraqi refugees forced to flee ISISnow have another thing to fear: losing aid-agency health services due to a massive shortfall in international funding.

The United Nations announced last month that 184 health services — more than 80 percent across Iraq — were to be shuttered because of an " inexplicable" and "paralyzing" lack of donations from abroad.

About 30 miles outside of Baghdad, Iraqis at a refugee camp told NBC News that axing the services would have a devastating effect on their already upturned lives.

"The service that we receive... is very important, especially the medical care," said Adbullah Mohammed Al-Zawba'y, a 52-year-old grocer from Ramadi. "If they decide to stop providing [health services], we will definitely be under the mercy of Allah."

Refugees wait in line at the Amiriyat Al-Fallujah Refugee Camp.World Health Organization

Al-Zawba'y said his family fled after Iraqi troops withdrew from Ramadi in the face of ISIS' advance in May. Since then, they have been living in the Amiriyat Al-Fallujah Refugee Camp.

"My message for the international community is: Please have mercy and help us," he told NBC News.

The U.N., which coordinates the humanitarian appeal for Iraq, said in late July that the international community donated just 15 percent of the $498 million required by its partner aid agencies to provide health services.

The money goes toward providing food, water, sanitation and hygiene services, as well as care for victims of sexual violence.

"At a time when the people of Iraq need us the most, we are letting them down … the impact is immediate and enormous," said Iraq's U.N. Coordinator Lise Grande.

"It's devastating, inexplicable really, that we are being forced to shut down programs in a country where so much is at stake and where the international community is so involved," she added.

A patient receives dental treatment at the Amiriyat Al-Fallujah Refugee Camp.World Health Organization

The shortfall was exacerbated because aid agencies were caught off guard by a sharp spike in the number of people fleeing ISIS as battles in northern Iraq bled into the country's central and eastern regions, according to a spokesman for the World Health Organization (WHO).

Altaf Musani told NBC News this week that the situation has somewhat improved thanks to a cash injection from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), European Commission and others.

That money means 100 of the 184 services set for immediate closure will likely be able to hang on until the end of the year — but aid officials have warned that 70 percent of those front-line health services won't last through 2016.

"Animals are living in better conditions that us"

Situated just south of the ISIS battlegrounds of Fallujah and Ramadi, the Amiriyat Al-Fallujah Refugee Camp has been a nexus of the refugee crisis born out of the shifting conflict.

Run by the WHO and the Iraqi Medical Association — a non-governmental organization — it will for now remain open thanks to the last-minute funding.

However, the camp's medical facilities are by no means safe.

"If this medical center is closed for any reason, it will be a disaster, a real disaster," said Sattar Rijab Majeed, the center's 46-year-old director who works for the Iraqi Medical Association. "It is going to be a big loss for the refugees if the center is closed."

Already, some of the camp's inhabitants are far from content.

"We live under bad conditions here," said Mohammed Admed Abdulla, 40, who worked as an elementary school teacher before fleeing Ramadi in May.

Women and children at the Amiriyat Al-Fallujah Refugee Camp.World Health Organization

Thabit Ahmed Mohammed, a 43-year-old mechanic who left Fallujah in July, agreed.

"Sometimes I say that animals are living in better conditions that us," he said. "I am not exaggerating, that is the truth."

Mohammed went from being a skilled worker to impoverished refugee when he left his home with his wife and three children, aged 9, 14 and 17.

"I am not a wealthy man, in fact I have nothing at all at the moment," he said.