Shams, 5, lives with cerebral palsy. Along with her family, she is now one of Iraq's millions of internally displaced people. Here, she receives physical therapy from Handicap International at a camp in Kirkuk.
More than 34,000 displaced people from the towns and villages surrounding Mosul have arrived in Qayyarah, Al Haj Ali, and the Jad’ah and Debaga displaced persons camps. Handicap International is assessing the needs of individuals—with a special emphasis on those with disabilities—and preparing to offer rehabilitation, psychosocial support, and mine risk education.
"We have recruited psychologists to work with the most severely traumatized people," explains Fanny Mraz, Handicap International’s head of mission in Iraq. "Our teams are made up of Iraqi volunteers–including those displaced–who will be able to help identify individuals in urgent need of psychological support. They will also help Handicap International organize activities for children in the displacement areas.”
Four mine and explosive remnants of war (ERW) risk education teams, four psychosocial support teams, and three rehabilitation teams are being deployed to the displacement areas.
Training humanitarian organizations
As one of the main risk education actors in Iraq, Handicap International is training other humanitarian organizations on ERW and mine risk education.
"The contamination—the presence of explosive remnants of—is not immediately obvious for everyone, so it is important that everybody is properly informed,” Mraz explains. “These weapons and improvised explosive devices affect civilian populations and can also harm the humanitarian workers who are there to provide assistance. It is vital that everyone is made aware of these risks when preparing an intervention in a highly contaminated country such as Iraq. Our expertise in this field and our extensive experience will be beneficial to other humanitarian organizations when implementing their emergency response interventions in the country.”
Mosul emergency response
In recent years, the fighting between armed groups and government forces in Iraq has led to the displacement of over 3.3 million people, with an estimated 10 million requiring humanitarian assistance throughout Iraq. The Mosul offensive will constitute an unprecedented challenge for international organizations. As a worst-case scenario, this military operation could result in the largest humanitarian crisis of 2016 and the displacement of one million people, according to the United Nations. Large numbers of families have already started fleeing the area over the last two weeks.
Handicap International and the Iraqi crisis
Handicap International has helped more than 125,000 people since launching its emergency response in 2014. (Handicap International has run other projects in Iraq since 1991.) The organization regularly reviews its actions to account for a highly volatile situation across the entire country. Current activities protect people by raising awareness of the risk from mines and conventional weapons. Teams conduct non-technical studies and clear potentially dangerous areas. Other staff provide physical and functional rehabilitation and psychosocial support, support to health centers, training and advocacy on the inclusion of people with disabilities, and technical support to partners to enhance the inclusion of vulnerable people in their services.