Iraq: Disabled and vulnerable people take refuge in Hasansham camp after fleeing Mosul
Over 55,000 people have been displaced since military operations to retake Mosul, Iraq began on the 17th October. Hasansham camp opened ten days ago and is already full: more than 10 000 internally displaced people have found refuge there.
Gaylan and his children in their temporary shelter in Hasansham camp. | © E. Fourt / Handicap International
Today, Maud Bellon, Handicap International’s Mosul Emergency Project Manager is visiting Hasansham camp:
“We want to assess the population’s level of vulnerability here, in order to provide them with the most appropriate humanitarian assistance. We also want to ensure that facilities in the camp are accessible (that everyone can move around easily and access distribution areas, tents and sanitary facilities). We have to be sure that NGOs include people with disabilities in the humanitarian response.”
As Maud walks around the camp with the rest of the Handicap International team, she notices some tents standing more than a metre above the nearest alley.
“Look at the height of the ground where those tents are installed, and then look at that road,” she says. “It must be very difficult for people with disabilities to move around”.
A little further on, the team notices a wheelchair in front of one of the tents. It belongs to Idriss, 61.
“I arrived here a week ago, with my family,” he says. “I’ve hardly left the tent since then. It’s impossible for me to get around.”
Idriss confirms the team’s concerns. “My family brings me everything I need. I only leave the tent to go to the toilet or to take a shower, and even that is complicated. But I’m not complaining, at least we’re safe here.”
A few minutes later, Maud comes across dozens of families in a large brick building, waiting for tents to be allocated to them. A little girl is playing on a wheelchair. The team asks her who it belongs to. “To my daddy,” she says shyly.
The family invites them into their small living space. Gaylan, 33, is sitting on a mattress, flanked by his mother and children.
“We arrived from Mosul ten days ago,” says Gaylan, who suffered a stroke five years ago and can’t move around without his wheelchair.
Although it is difficult for people with disabilities to move around the camp, he says he hasn’t been able to travel over long distances for years.
“It was too dangerous in Mosul. We had to stay inside all the time. My mother only went out to buy a few things, when we had nothing left in the house…”
His longest journey in two years was the one to Hasansham camp. “It took us two days,” he says.
“My mother and children pushed my wheelchair because we had to flee on foot. Missiles were falling around us. It was terrifying. We were relieved to arrive at the camp and to find safety here.”
Although he’s only a few kilometres from the frontline, Gaylan is happy to be somewhere secure.
“All I want now is for my children to go to school. They didn’t go to school in Mosul. I hope they’ll soon get the opportunity to learn in the camp.”