UN fears over plight of Mosul civilians
AS THE fight against the Islamic State (IS) approaches western Mosul, in Iraq, the plight of approximately 750 000 civilians has raised the concerns of the UN.
One hundred days after the start of the military operations to retake Mosul from the IS, fighting which had mostly taken part in the eastern part of the city is expected to move towards the western sector of Mosul.
To date, 180 000 people have fled the city’s eastern sections while more than 550 000 civilians have remained in their homes.
“We are relieved that so many people in the eastern sections of Mosul have been able to stay in their homes. We hope that everything is done to protect the hundreds of thousands of people who are across the river in the west.
“We know that they are at extreme risk and we fear for their lives,” said Lise Grande, UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator for Iraq, in a statement on Tuesday also signed by other humanitarians from UN agencies and civil society.
“We don’t know what will happen in western Mosul but we cannot rule out the possibility of siege-like conditions or a mass exodus.
“The reports from inside western Mosul are distressing,” said Grande, noting that humanitarian partners are unable to access these areas and the prices of basic food and supplies are soaring.
“Water and electricity are intermittent in neighbourhoods and many families without income are eating only once a day. Others are being forced to burn furniture to stay warm,” she added.
“We don’t know what will happen in western Mosul but we cannot rule out the possibility of siege-like conditions or a mass exodus,” said Grande.
“They can be killed by boobytraps and in crossfire, and could be used as human shields.”
The Iraqi security forces have adopted a humanitarian concept of operations putting civilian protection at the centre of their battle plan.
Humanitarian partners welcome this approach and renew their collective call on all parties to the conflict to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and ensure they have access to life-saving assistance.
“The world’s attention is fixed on the military campaign in Iraq. But once this is over, there will still be a humanitarian crisis,” Grande said, noting that as many as three million Iraqis, maybe even four million depending on what happened in Mosul, Hawiga and Tel Afar, might be displaced from their homes as a result of the conflict.
“These families will need to make crucial choices about how to rebuild and re-establish their lives. And we will need to be here to help them. We hope and trust that the international community will not walk away after Mosul. It would be a mistake – a very big one – if this were to happen,” she added.
Displaced people who have fled the Islamic State stronghold in the Arabi neighbourhood, north of Mosul, arrive to register their names at a military checkpoint before being transported to camps in the east of Mosul, Iraq, yesterday. PICTURE: REUTERS