Mosul, Iraq: Protecting Civilians Returning to a War Zone


Heavy fighting in Mosul, Iraq, has driven 430,000 civilians from their homes since last October. More than 90,000 people have since returned to parts of the city retaken by the army. To protect civilians who choose to go home, Handicap International is teaching people about the explosive remnants of war they may encounter in their neighborhoods.

“The risks for those returning are still great,” says Maud Bellon, coordinator of the organization’s emergency response. “Streets and houses that are still standing are littered with improvised explosive devices.”

To reach people before they depart, prevention teams have been running education sessions for people waiting for buses headed back to Mosul. “People returning home don’t usually know anything about the dangers they might face,” says Salar, an education officer. “They thank us for warning them.”

“We work in camps for displaced people and communities to make as many people as possible aware of the risks,” says Hilda, a risk education officer. “We give priority to schools because children are curious and don’t always understand the threat from explosive weapons. We teach them to be careful and what to do if they find themselves in danger.”

“Our teams have already raised the awareness of more than a thousand civilians, and we will do the same for several thousand more in the months ahead,” says Bellon. “We don’t simply wish to heal the wounds of conflict. We want to prevent them.”