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Iraq: Humanitarians deeply concerned for remaining civilians in ISIL-held areas

05 Jul 2017
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Many have fled the violence and the ongoing destruction of Mosul as did this women and child carrying their belongings as they flee fighting between Iraqi security forces and ISIS in the Al-Mamoon neighbourhood, west Mosul (March 2017). Credit: UNICEF/Romenzi

Since the Mosul operation began in October 2016, some 916,000 people from that city have been displaced. After the recent defeat of ISIL in most parts of Mosul, a significant number of people have returned to their homes. However, about 692,000 people are still displaced and require some type of humanitarian assistance.

Humanitarians are deeply concerned about the safety and well-being of civilians in the remaining ISIL-held part of western Mosul, as military operations in the Old City continue. Estimates of how many people remain in the Old City vary, but lower estimates range between 10,000 and 20,000 people. Al-Anbar and Kirkuk Governorates are also partly under ISIL control. In Al-Anbar, an estimated 80,000 people are still living in ISIL-controlled areas. And in Kirkuk Governorate, the number of displaced people who have managed to flee the town of Hawija had exceeded 98,000 as of 25 June, but some 50,000 to 60,000 people are still in this ISIL-controlled town.

Humanitarians do not have access to these areas, hence their extreme concern for the safety of civilians who are stranded in the conflict zone and trying to leave. These people face extremely high risks of cross fire, direct targeting and being used as human shields by ISIL. Those who have managed to escape west Mosul report increasingly deteriorating conditions.

Given the drastic shortage of potable water, people are relying increasingly on unsafe water sources. Malnutrition among children arriving from west Mosul has also increased, and half of west Mosul’s female population require sexual and gender-based violence response services. Since October 2016, only 15,000 people have been able to access and receive support at trauma-stabilization points.

Humanitarians are doing their utmost to provide emergency assistance to displaced civilians, those on the move and those inside Mosul. About 1.9 million people have received front-line emergency support to date, including food, water and basic hygiene items. Humanitarian actors are trucking 6.4 million litres of water into Mosul each day, and shelter capacities have kept pace with needs, despite the speed and fluidity of civilian displacement. A total of about 7,900 plots, which provide sufficient space to accommodate 45,000 people, were available as of this week for immediate occupancy in 19 camps and emergency sites.

But despite humanitarians’ progress, more needs to be done, as this complex emergency remains significantly underfunded. Of the US$984.6 million required for the Iraq Humanitarian Response Plan, only 42.1 per cent is funded. This leaves a funding gap of $570 million to meet the most pressing needs and to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance.