“The battle to retake Mosul began six months ago,” explains Maud Bellon, coordinator of the organisation’s emergency response. “But since February, humanitarian needs have increased tremendously. As fighting reaches the most heavily populated areas of the city, population movements increase.” More than a third of people displaced by fighting in Mosul have fled in the past four weeks.
Sharp rise in casualties
“Although people living in the city face a high level of risk, it’s also very dangerous to flee,” explains Maud Bellon. “Since the start of the operation in western Mosul, several hundred people have received care and treatment close to the front lines for injuries sustained in the conflict. Many were hit as they tried to leave the city.” In addition to their work in camps for displaced people, the organisation’s teams work in hospitals to assist casualties by providing them with physiotherapy and psychological support sessions.
Hard living conditions inside Mosul
An estimated 750,000 people are still trapped inside Mosul, where the humanitarian situation is also critical. “Many civilians who managed to flee talk of disastrous conditions in the city, including serious shortages of food, gas, drinking water and health services,” adds the organisation’s coordinator. “We’re particularly worried about the plight of the city’s residents, whom we can’t access while the fighting lasts.”
Serious threats for the returnees
Another source of concern is the number of families returning to their home town or village when the fighting ends. “Over 300,000 people have fled Mosul since last October, but nearly 70,000 of them have already returned home. The streets and abandoned houses not destroyed in the fighting are littered with explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices. It is still very dangerous.” In recent weeks, Handicap International has stepped up its risk education activities to ensure civilians are able to warn of the dangers and know what to do when they come across explosive devices.