On July 10, 2017, Iraqi armed forces retook Mosul. Two years later, the abandoned, western-half of the city lies in ruin, contaminated by thousands of explosive remnants of war. Nearly 500,000 people are still displaced in camps and the lives of thousands of injured people depend on access to appropriate care. Humanity & Inclusion is calling on the international community to respond to this humanitarian tragedy to ensure that its victims are not forgotten, and that explosive weapons will no longer be used in cities.
"The situation in the camps is very worrying,” explains Thomas Hugonnier, Director of Humanity & Inclusion in the Middle East. “It’s been two years, and people still only have the bare minimum to drink, eat, and survive. The lack of hope in the future and their trauma is going to haunt them for generations.”
Thousands of victims are still awaiting treatment. “There’s a lot of demand and we lack the funding to provide an adequate response, so our waiting lists are growing longer and longer," says Hugonnier. “Some patients have been waiting for a prosthesis for more than a year. Due to a shortage of resources, we provide them with emergency care to improve their mobility and make sure they can go about their daily lives as independently as possible. But it’s a totally unacceptable situation.”
Life has resumed in the eastern half of Mosul. However, the city's western half, where the bulk of the fighting took place, remains heavily contaminated by explosive remnants of war and improvised landmines. Sixty-five percent of homes have been damaged. The extensive use of explosive weapons has destroyed vital infrastructure, such as schools and hospitals. Roads and bridges remain impassable.
Some 1,500 explosive remnants of war have been found in Al-Shifa hospital alone.
"The western half of the city has been almost abandoned due to a lack of resources and a political incapacity to organize weapons clearance and rebuild the city," adds Hugonnier. "In the short term, there is no prospect of things improving.” As large numbers of people continue returning to highly contaminated areas, there is an urgent need to raise their awareness. “The people who live here are unaware of the dangers. Until the weapons are cleared, our job is to inform them as best we can about the threat from explosive remnants of war, how to recognize them and what to do if they find one."
As Humanity & Inclusion has witnessed the dramatic consequences of the bombing of towns and cities such as Mosul, the organization is urging all States to work on the political and practical solution to prevent the harm caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.
"We can’t go on tinkering around the edges with a humanitarian response that in no way meets people’s needs," says Hugonnier. "The international community must take action, because it has a major responsibility for the extent of the damage caused.”
A group of States will gather in Vienna for a high-level conference in October 2019. Their goal? To draft an international political declaration to protect civilians in urban warfare. This historical diplomatic process is the only way to ensure an effective protection of civilians from the use of explosive weapons, as 90% of victims of explosive weapons in populated areas are civilians.