Mosul: Over 1 million people displaced since the beginning of the offensive
In October 2016, the Iraqi armed forces launched a military offensive to retake Mosul, in Iraq. Since then, over one million civilians have been displaced. Two weeks ago, the final assault was launched on Mosul’s Old City, where hundreds of thousands of people were still trapped and where the fighting has considerably intensified. Handicap International describes the situation as extremely alarming.
“Over a million civilians have had to flee Mosul and its surroundings, since the beginning of the offensive. And we estimate that more than 100,000 people, half of them children, are still trapped inside the Old City, where the fight is still going on” explains Maud Bellon, who is coordinating the organisation’s emergency response.
Escalation in fighting
“Fighting is very intense there and civilians are at extreme risk,” adds Maud Bellon. “There are reports that thousands of people are being held as human shields. Hundreds of others are being shot as they try to flee the fighting. Through our cooperation with other humanitarian actors, we try to provide daily assistance to casualties arriving in hospitals. We also work with displaced people in camps, where many civilians now need rehabilitation care.”
Malnutrition and trauma
“An important number of civilians who manage to flee the city are also malnourished or in a state of extreme exhaustion. Additionally, many people assisted by our teams suffer from psycho-social distress after what they went through in recent months. We are stepping up our efforts to assist them by providing them with psychosocial support,” adds Maud Bellon. Handicap International has also sent psychologists to the field to treat the worst cases of trauma.
Rise in returns
Besides assisting displaced people, Handicap International also helps civilians who have decided to resettle in Mosul. Since the beginning of the offensive, over 200 000 civilians returned to their areas of origin.
“More and more people are deciding to return home, to areas of the city now under army control. More than 50,000 people have left since the start of the month. Living conditions in the camps are extremely harsh: it is very hot and there is still no electricity… So many displaced people decide to return, despite the risks,” explains the organisation’s Field Coordinator.
“We raise people’s awareness of the risks from explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices, so they can spot them and protect themselves when they get back to Mosul and its surroundings.”
Handicap International and the Iraqi crisis
More than 200,000 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 organises population protection activities, raises awareness of the risk from landmines and conventional and non-conventional weapons, conducts non-technical surveys and clears hazardous areas, provides physical and functional rehabilitation, psychosocial and psychological support, 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.