Mo­sul doc­tors strug­gle to save civil­ians on Iraq front line Lib­er­ated ar­eas still un­der attack

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

A crowd of men rushed through the nar­row hall­way of Mo­sul’s al-Zahra clinic car­ry­ing a slight 10-year-old boy. Yousef Oday’s face was cov­ered in blood. A team of doc­tors quickly gath­ered around his cot. “What hap­pened to you?” one of the men asked. “I have no idea. I was bleed­ing on one side,” the boy said. He didn’t make an­other sound, ly­ing mo­tion­less as a doc­tor put an IV into his arm. His eyes were wide and pupils di­lated.

Oday was hit in the side of his head with a stray bul­let as he was wait­ing in line to gather water from a well in eastern Mo­sul. Two other young men wait­ing with him were also shot. Dr. Ahmed Hus­sam me­thod­i­cally tended to Oday’s wounds. “He’s in shock,” he ex­plained.

While Iraqi forces an­nounce daily ad­vances, the city’s civil­ians con­tinue to be killed and maimed by in­di­rect fire, clashes and coun­ter­at­tacks.

The Mo­sul front line in the city’s east is be­ing pushed for­ward in two col­umns: one led by the Iraqi army’s 9th Di­vi­sion and the other by the spe­cial forces. In some places, Iraqi forces are just over two kilo­me­ters (1.2 miles) from the Ti­gris River that splits the city. But along the main high­way that cuts through the cen­ter of Mo­sul’s eastern half, Iraqi forces have made hardly any ad­vances at all.

The jagged edge leaves troops vul­ner­a­ble to coun­ter­at­tacks, but also thou­sands of civil­ians ex­posed to on­go­ing clashes as the op­er­a­tion slowly grinds for­ward.

Lib­er­ated ar­eas still un­der attack

Oday was shot in al-Zahra, a neigh­bor­hood de­clared lib­er­ated nearly a month ago. Since then, Iraqi forces have cap­tured nearly half a dozen other neigh­bor­hoods and districts, but have not man­aged to com­pletely se­cure al-Zahra so that aid groups and sup­ply trucks can ac­cess the hun­dreds of civil­ians still liv­ing there.

“This is noth­ing,” whis­pered one of the nurses in the emer­gency room where Oday was be­ing treated. “We have peo­ple who come in here with­out any arms or legs,” she said, ask­ing to only be iden­ti­fied by her first name, Malkiya, out of con­cern for her safety.

Doc­tors in the small clinic in eastern Mo­sul say that since the op­er­a­tion to re­take the city be­gan nearly two months ago, they’ve only re­ceived in­ter­mit­tent de­liv­er­ies of sup­plies. Nurses say they’re run­ning out of ba­sic items like clean ban­dages. In a hall­way that’s been con­verted into an emer­gency room, doc­tors say all they have are bot­tles of saline so­lu­tion, gauze and io­dine. Like nearly all of Mo­sul, the clinic also lacks run­ning water.

Hun­dreds of other pa­tients also filled the dim hall­ways wait­ing for an­tibi­otics, cough syrup, al­lergy medicine or in­sulin. A woman and her three daugh­ters said they walked 3 kilo­me­ters (1.8 miles) across a front line to reach the clinic to ob­tain an­tibi­otics. Since the op­er­a­tion to re­take Mo­sul be­gan, tem­per­a­tures have dropped and, with­out elec­tric­ity or fuel, her chil­dren have all got­ten sick.

The women spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity as they were still liv­ing in a Mo­sul neigh­bor­hood con­trolled by IS. “We have no pro­tec­tion,” the mother said, walk­ing in­side the ex­am­i­na­tion room and lift­ing the black veil she wore to travel to the clinic. He youngest daugh­ter screamed as the nurse gave her an im­mu­niza­tion shot.

Dur­ing the first few bat­tles of the Mo­sul op­er­a­tion, IS fight­ers largely fled the vil­lages around the city, giv­ing Iraqi and coali­tion com­man­ders hope they would do the same in­side the city. But as the bat­tle reached the city’s edge, in­tense re­sis­tance has re­peat­edly stalled ad­vances and at times forced Iraqi forces to re­treat.

Un­like in past fights where civil­ians were moved out of the way of front-line clashes, in Mo­sul, Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Haider al-Abadi has asked civil­ians to stay in their homes. The move pre­vents mas­sive dis­place­ment - Mo­sul is still home to an es­ti­mated one mil­lion peo­ple - but it also leaves thou­sands in harm’s way and thou­sands more out of reach of aid or­ga­ni­za­tions wary of op­er­at­ing close to the front.

The clinic in­side Mo­sul es­ti­mates it has treated at least 800 se­verely wounded civil­ians since Iraqi forces first pushed into the city in early Novem­ber. “All we can do is work as a sta­bi­liza­tion unit,” said Dr. Muham­mad Has­san Ali, ex­plain­ing that with­out the abil­ity to per­form surgery, most of the emer­gency cases he re­ceives need to be trans­ferred to a hospi­tal in Irbil more than an hour’s drive away across bad roads and through half a dozen check­points.

Oday, the young boy, lost his left eye, but the doc­tors at the clinic were able to ban­dage his wound and slow the bleed­ing. As quickly as he was rushed into the build­ing, he was car­ried out into an am­bu­lance bound for Irbil.

“He’ll live,” said Hus­sam, the doc­tor who treated him. “He’s very lucky.”—AP

MO­SUL, Iraq: In this Wed­nes­day, Dec 7, 2016 file photo, Yousef Oday, 10, who was wounded in the eye by Is­lamic State mil­i­tants, is treated by doc­tors at the al-Zahra clinic. —AP

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