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Khazer camp, Iraq: "Over half the people living here are under 18"

Emergency
Iraq

More than 55,000 people have been displaced since military operations to retake Mosul began on the 17th October 2016. Several thousand of them now live in Khazer camp, 15 kilometres away from the frontline. 

A girl from a displaced family plays in Khazer camp.

A girl from a displaced family plays in Khazer camp. | © E. Fourt / Handicap International

What first strikes you when entering Khazer camp is the number of children playing between the white and blue tents. “Over half the people living in Khazer are under 18,” says Maud Bellon, Handicap International’s Mosul Emergency Project Manager.

Over the next few days, over a dozen Handicap International teams will begin providing support to people who fled the fighting in Mosul and its surroundings. 

“Accessibility is a real problem here, so it’s likely that a lot of people aren’t getting the help they need,” says Maud as she walks around the camp. “We need to make sure everyone’s included in the emergency response.”

Difficulty moving around

At the end of an alley, an old man grips his walking stick tightly as he struggles over the gravel. Mohammad, 70, is from Gogjali. His city was retaken by the Islamic State group less than two weeks ago. He and his family arrived in Khazer camp two days later.

“It’s very difficult for me to move around. I’d like to have a wheelchair to move over long distances,” he says. “My grandson is partially deaf because of the bombing and my granddaughter finds it hard to sleep at night after everything she has seen,” he says.

Maud comments: “Handicap International is going to run physiotherapy sessions and hand out mobility devices to people who find it difficult to move around. We’re also going to organise psychological support sessions for people who, like Mohammad’s grandchildren, are stressed, anxious or in emotional distress.”

Dealing with traumatic experiences

Further on, a man with an amputated leg stumbles through the camp on broken crutches. “I bought them at the market in Mosul a few years ago,” he says. He arrived with his family ten days ago and also finds it difficult to move around the camp. His experiences over the last few years appear to have left him quite traumatized.

“The Islamic State group members were always checking what we were doing and confiscating everything,” he says. “They even took our phones so we couldn’t get in touch with people outside of Mosul. And if you didn’t do what they said, they killed you. We lived in fear until the very last moment. The fighters were shooting at us as we fled Mosul. We only really felt safe once we had reached the camp.”

The two men encountered by our team are not exceptions. According to the camp manager, many of the internally displaced people who arrived over the last few weeks find it difficult to move around. Teams of physiotherapists, psychologists, social workers and mine risk education workers will soon make their way through the camp to provide assistance to all disabled or vulnerable people who have been displaced.

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