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Mosul: “Most civilians still need humanitarian assistance”


A year ago, on October 17th 2016, the armed forces launched a military offensive to retake the city of Mosul, in Iraq. More than one million civilians were displaced by the fighting, which lasted nine months, and over 18,000 people were injured. Below is an update on one of the region’s biggest humanitarian crises. 

Children on a bus that takes them back to Mosul | © Blaise Kormann/L’illustré/Handicap International

“Despite the end of the military offensive to recapture the city of Mosul last July, 80% of people displaced by fighting have yet to return home. The scale of the destruction, the contamination by mines and explosive remnants of war and the lack of economic opportunities are preventing people from going back. Living conditions are very basic in displacement areas, and humanitarian assistance is still not enough,” explains Fanny Mraz, Handicap International’s Head of Mission in Iraq. 

Assisting the injured and traumatised

“We continue to provide people stranded in IDP camps with physiotherapy services and psychosocial & psychological support. It won’t be easy for them to overcome their physical and psychological sequelae, and reconstruction efforts, which we’re supporting through our actions, are going to take a long time,” adds Fanny. The organisation is also beefing up its response inside the city of Mosul, where some 300,000 people have returned to live in recent months and tens of thousands of people, unable to flee, remained during the fighting. Handicap International’s teams are working in several neighbourhoods to assist the population.

Support and help for returnees

“We’re adapting our response to the evolution of the situation,” explains Handicap International’s Head of Mission. Handicap International continues to provide people with risk education sessions on explosive remnants of war, before they return to Mosul. Most of the city is still contaminated by explosive weapons and improvised explosive devices, which remain one of the biggest threats to the local population. “Along the same lines, we’ve implemented a recovery program in several governorates, to where large numbers of civilians have returned in recent months. We’re helping to restore services shut down by the fighting.”

Responding to multiple needs and new emergencies

“When clashes ended in Mosul, the armed forces continued their offensive. This summer, they recaptured the cities of Tel Afar, and more recently Hawiga. More than 100,000 people have been displaced over the last three months. The army is now fighting in the region west of Anbar: some 50,000 civilians have already been displaced within the governorate and this number could double over the weeks ahead,” explains Fanny. “Population movements continue and the humanitarian emergency has not gone away.”

“More than five million people have been displaced in Iraq since 2014 and more than half have yet to return to their areas of origin. The humanitarian situation in Mosul is an example, on a small scale, of needs in a country where more than 10 million people currently depend on assistance from humanitarian organisations,” adds Fanny. 

Handicap International and the Iraqi crisis

More than 250,000 people have benefited from Handicap International’s actions since the launch of its emergency operations in Iraq in 2014. The organisation’s actions are regularly reviewed to take into account a highly volatile situation across the whole of Iraqi territory. Handicap International currently implements population return actions, raises awareness of the risk from mines and conventional weapons, conducts non-technical surveys and clears potentially hazardous areas, provides physical and functional rehabilitation and psychosocial assistance, supports health centres, organises training and advocacy and provides technical support to partners to enhance the inclusion of vulnerable people (people with disabilities, casualties, older people, and others) within their services.

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