Mosul was retaken by the Iraqi armed forces on 10 July 2017. Two years after the fighting ended, the abandoned western half of the city lies in ruin, contaminated by thousands of explosive remnants of war. Some 500,000 people are still displaced in camps and the lives of thousands of casualties depend on access to appropriate care. Humanity & Inclusion (HI) is calling on the international community to respond to this humanitarian tragedy in order to ensure it is not forgotten, and to make sure explosive weapons will no longer be used in towns and cities.
Two million Iraqis still depend on humanitarian aid. One million people fled the fighting in the aftermath of the Battle of Mosul. Some 500,000 are living in camps for displaced people in Nineveh province and cannot or do not wish to return home. They fear for their safety in a region still controlled by a multitude of armed groups. This danger is heightened by the fact that Mosul and the surrounding villages remain contaminated by unexploded ordnances.
"The situation in the camps is very worrying. It’s been two years, and people still only have the bare minimum to drink, eat and survive. The lack of hope in the future and their trauma is going to haunt them for generations," deplores Thomas Hugonnier, Director of Humanity & Inclusion in the Middle East.
HI is trying to heal this trauma. Our teams organise discussion groups and recreational activities so that people can talk about their feelings, which people tend to bury, partly because psychological assistance is often looked down on in Iraq.
The situation in Mosul is just as worrying. Sixty-five per cent of homes have been damaged. Although life has resumed in the eastern half of the city, the western half, where the bulk of the fighting took place, remains heavily contaminated by explosive remnants of war and improvised mines. With the extensive use of explosive weapons, vital infrastructure such as schools and hospitals has been destroyed. Roads and bridges are still impassable. Some 1,500 explosive remnants of war have been found in Al-Shifa hospital alone.
"The western half of the city has been almost abandoned due to a lack of resources and a political incapacity to organise weapons clearance and rebuild the city. In the short term, there is no prospect of things improving," continues Thomas Hugonnier.
As large numbers of people continue returning to highly contaminated areas, there is an urgent need to raise their awareness. “The people who live here are unaware of the dangers. Until the weapons are cleared, our job is to inform them as best we can about the threat from explosive remnants of war, how to recognise them and what to do if they find one," adds Hugonnier.
Two years after the fighting ended, thousands of victims still await treatment. “There’s a lot of demand and we lack the funding to provide an adequate response, so our waiting lists are growing longer and longer," says Hugonnier. “Some patients have been waiting for a prosthesis for more than a year. Due to a shortage of resources, we provide them with emergency care to improve their mobility and make sure they can go about their daily lives as independently as possible. But it’s a totally unacceptable situation.”
HI continues to call on the international community to take immediate action. "We can’t go on tinkering around edges with a humanitarian response that in no way meets people’s needs," says Hugonnier "The international community must take action, because it has a major responsibility for the extent of the damage caused".
As HI has witnessed the dramatic consequences of the bombing of towns and cities such as Mosul, our organisation is urging all States to work on the political and practical solution to prevent the harm caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, A group of states will gather in Vienna high-level conference in October 2019, that will led to an international political declaration to protect civilians in urban warfare. This historical diplomatic process is the only way to ensure an effective protection of civilians from the use of explosive weapons, as of today 90% of victims of explosive weapons in populated areas are civilians.
- Interviews with our experts available upon request
- Possibility to organise media media visits with Humanity & Inclusion's team in Iraq
Marlene Manning, Humanity & Inclusion UK
Tel: +44 (0)870 774 3737
About Humanity & Inclusion
Co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Humanity & Inclusion (the new name of Handicap International) is a charity working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. We work tirelessly alongside disabled and vulnerable people to help meet their basic needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights.
Humanity & Inclusion is the new name of Handicap International.