Mosul: Handicap International expands its emergency response
“Almost seven months after the start of the military operation to recapture the city of Mosul, more than 12,000 civilians have been injured in the assault or as they tried to escape the fighting,” explains Maud Bellon, Handicap International’s field coordinator for the Mosul Emergency Response. “More than half come from the western part of the city, where armed forces are still conducting military operations.”
Recaptured in December 2015, Jalawla (South of Mosul) is now one of the most severely damaged cities in the conflict. Even if the area is still contaminated, its residents have gradually begun to move back to their homes, since the beginning of 2016. | © E. Fourt / Handicap International
The city of Mosul has been the scene of intense fighting since October 2016. More than 485,000 people have fled the city and hundreds of thousands civilians remain trapped by the conflict. Since the start of military offensive’s second phase to capture the western part of the city, last February, there has been a sharp rise in the number of casualties. To provide assistance and get as close as possible to the victims, Handicap International is extending its emergency response into the city itself.
Direct response in East Mosul
“Although a lot of people living in the western part of the city are fleeing Mosul, many are also heading towards the city’s eastern districts, retaken by the army in January 2017,” explains Maud. “To cover as many needs as possible and to provide assistance directly to the population, we are going to extend our response into the city itself, in a health centre, where several physiotherapists, psychosocial workers and psychologists will provide assistance to casualties.” The organisation already works in two other hospitals on the outskirts of the city, providing patients with rehabilitation care.
Camp activities beefed up
The rise in casualties has been mirrored by a dramatic increase in population movements in recent weeks. “More than three quarters of civilians who have fled Mosul live in displaced people’s camps set up to the south and east of the city. Thousands of displaced people pass through the Hammam al Alil screening point every day. We are already working in six camps but we also recently began working in this area to provide faster assistance to displaced people,” explains Handicap International’s Field Coordinator. “We intend to give priority to the most vulnerable people: civilian casualties, people with disabilities and people suffering from psychological distress. They have been hit particularly hard by erratic access to care, bombing and the difficulties fleeing Mosul. For them, our assistance is vital.”
More and more returnees
Although tens of thousands of people continue to flee Mosul, the number of families returning to their areas of origin has also risen sharply. “More than 100,000 people have already returned to their homes and the number of returnees has even exceeded the number of arrivals, in some camps, over the last month, ” says Maud Bellon. “These areas are still extremely hazardous because they are littered with explosive remnants of war. We are continuing our risk education activities in the camps and in the buses transporting displaced people back to areas of Mosul recaptured by armed forces.” Since the start of its emergency response, Handicap International has already provided more than 25,000 people with risk education on explosive remnants of war.
Fighting between armed groups and government forces in Iraq in recent years has displaced more than three million people. An estimated 11 million civilians already need humanitarian assistance in the country. The Mosul offensive has presented international organisations with an unprecedented challenge. More than 470,000 people have fled the city since last October.
Handicap International and the Iraqi crisis
More than 200,000 people have benefited from Handicap International’s actions since the launch of its emergency operations in Iraq in 2014. The organisation’s actions are regularly reviewed to take into account a highly volatile situation across the whole of Iraqi territory. Handicap International currently organises population protection activities, raises awareness of the risk from mines and conventional weapons, conducts non-technical surveys and clears potentially hazardous areas, provides physical and functional rehabilitation and psychosocial support, supports health centres, organises training and advocacy, and provides technical support to partners to enhance the inclusion of vulnerable people (people with disabilities, casualties, older people, and others) within their services.