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Mosul: Handicap International extends its emergency response

On 17 October, the Iraqi and Kurdish armed forces launched an offensive to retake Mosul in Iraq. Since then, some 200,000 people have been displaced of whom 50,000 have returned to the areas now under army control. Handicap International’s teams are assisting people in displacement areas and in hospitals where casualties are treated. They also expect to provide response inside Mosul very shortly. Fanny Mraz, the organisation’s head of mission in Iraq, provided us with an update on the situation.

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Two displaced children in Khazer camp. | © E. Fourt / Handicap International

For four months, Handicap International’s teams have been providing assistance to people displaced from Mosul and its surrounding areas. Every day, dozens of physiotherapists, social workers, psychologists, psychosocial workers and risk education agents visit camps and communities where displaced people live. In recent weeks, the organisation has also extended its emergency response to include post-operative care-management for conflict casualties.

“More and more people are returning to the east of Mosul, in addition to several hundred thousand people not displaced by fighting. Daily attacks continue to affect this part of town and fighting is likely to intensify shortly in the west, increasing the number of casualties.” As the fighting continues to rage in Mosul, people’s needs are no longer being met: “Hospitals are overcrowded and casualties only stay a few days. No one is currently able to provide a physical rehabilitation service capable of preventing severe complications in recovering patients,” says Fanny. Most casualties have to leave hospital within two to three days without the post-operative care they need.

“Health facilities that care for casualties after stabilisation are currently in areas close to town but should soon launch operations in Mosul itself. Despite the unstable security situation and access problems, it is vital to provide local care in densely populated areas. One of our physiotherapists is already working daily in Qayyarah hospital, where many casualties from Mosul are treated. He assists people with reduced mobility, provides rehabilitation sessions and donates equipment such as crutches, wheelchairs, and so on. Our teams will be beefed up over the coming weeks to ensure a presence in other hospitals. Psychosocial works and psychologists will also be there to help patients and their families during the rehabilitation process.”

Once areas are retaken by the army, families who fled try to return. Handicap International will therefore also expand its risk education activities to alert returnees of the dangers they will be facing. “The aim is to raise people’s awareness before they return to their homes, where they still risk being injured by explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices. Much of our work to protect people is done upstream, during these sessions,” says the head of mission.

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