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Western Mosul: ghost town

Emergency Rehabilitation

Between October 2016 and July 2017, Mosul, in Nineveh province, was the scene of heavy fighting. The intensive use of explosive weapons such as bombs and improvised mines was particularly destructive in the western half of the city. More than 500,000 people are still displaced in camps.


Camp for displaced people south of Mosul | © Fanny Mraz / HI

Still displaced two years after the fighting

One million people fled the fighting in the aftermath of the Battle of Mosul, which ended in July 2017. Some 500,000 are still living in camps for displaced people across Nineveh province. According to the United Nations, two million people need humanitarian assistance.

"Families still living in the camps are unable or unwilling to return home for several reasons. They fear for their safety in this region controlled by a multitude of armed groups. They are afraid of the explosive remnants of war contaminating Mosul and surrounding villages. They often have nowhere to go because their neighbourhood has been completely destroyed and its social and economic life no longer exists,"

explains Stéphane Senia, HI Head of Mission in Iraq.

Mosul bled dry

In Mosul, 65% of houses and apartments have been damaged, according to the United Nations. Although life has resumed in the eastern half of the city, the western half - where most of the fighting took place - remains heavily contaminated by explosive remnants of war and improvised mines. Vital infrastructure such as schools and hospitals has been destroyed. Roads and bridges are still impassable.

"The western half of the city has been almost abandoned due to a lack of resources and political inability to organize weapons clearance and rebuild the city,” adds Stéphane Senia. “In the short term, there is no prospect of things improving. The western districts are likely to remain as they are for several years." 

Exceptionally high level of contamination in Mosul

HI has started to raise awareness of the risks from explosive remnants of war in the centre of Mosul and the Nineveh plains. “Many families returning to Mosul won’t have any experience of explosive remnants of war and booby traps in particular. Residents are forced to take risks because they have no other choice," says Stéphane Senia. “The western half of the city is so contaminated it’s like a minefield under the rubble. Our awareness teams will travel through the city and get people to think about what a suspicious device looks like, what the risks are, and what to do if they find one. The aim is to reduce the number of accidents, which remains significant, two years after the fighting. The level of contamination is still unbelievably high in Mosul and the surrounding region.

Over the past two years, HI has implemented a similar programme in nine camps for 120,000 people to ensure their safety when they eventually return home. An unofficial evaluation by iMMAP found an average of 40 weekly explosive incidents across the country at the end of February.

Major rehabilitation needs

HI has been providing rehabilitation care and psychological support in two hospitals run by Médecins sans frontières - the first in Mosul itself and the second near the village of Qayara - since July 2017. The organisation has also set up rehabilitation care and psychosocial support reception points in nine camps for displaced people. In two years, 2,500 people have already been given rehabilitation care by HI.

"We have to put people on a waiting list for rehabilitation care because the demand is so high and our response capacities are limited due to the disengagement of emergency funding bodies," says Stéphane Senia. "We provide care to improve the mobility of patients and ensure that they can do everyday activities such as getting out of bed, going to the toilet, etc. as autonomously as possible. We also provide them with psychological counselling because many of them suffer from anxiety or depression. We help many people who are totally lost and don't know what their future will be like."

Since the summer of 2017, HI has provided psychosocial follow-up for 1,500 people.

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