One million people fled the fighting in the aftermath of the Battle of Mosul, which ended in July 2017. Some 500,000 are still living in camps for displaced people across Nineveh province. According to the United Nations, two million people need humanitarian assistance.
"Families still living in the camps are unable or unwilling to return home for several reasons,” explains Stéphane Senia, HI’s head of mission in Iraq. “They fear for their safety in this region controlled by a multitude of armed groups. They are afraid of the explosive remnants of war contaminating Mosul and surrounding villages. They often have nowhere to go because their neighborhood has been completely destroyed and its social and economic life no longer exists.”
Destroyed homes, hospitals, schools, and roads
In Mosul, 65% of houses and apartments have been damaged, according to the United Nations. Although life has resumed in the eastern half of the city, the western half—where most of the fighting took place—remains heavily contaminated by explosive remnants of war and improvised mines. Vital infrastructure such as schools and hospitals have been destroyed. Roads and bridges are still impassable.
"The western half of the city has been almost abandoned due to a lack of resources and political inability to organize weapons clearance and rebuild the city,” adds Stéphane. “In the short term, there is no prospect of things improving. The western districts are likely to remain as they are for several years."
“The level of contamination is still unbelievably high in Mosul and the surrounding region.”
“Many families returning to Mosul won’t have any experience of explosive remnants of war and booby traps in particular. Residents are forced to take risks because they have no other choice. The western half of the city is so contaminated it’s like a minefield under the rubble.”
Humanity & Inclusion’s teams are working across nine camps—reaching 120,000 people—to ensure that people understand the dangers of explosive remnants of war, so that when they return to their homes, they can do so in safety. “They will travel throughout the city and get people to think about what a suspicious device looks like, what the risks are, and what to do if they find one. The goal is to reduce the number of accidents, which remains significant, two years after the fighting.”
An unofficial evaluation by iMMAP found an average of 40 weekly explosive incidents across the country at the end of February.
Major rehabilitation needs
Since July 2017, Humanity & Inclusion has been providing rehabilitation care and psychological support in two hospitals run by Doctors Without Borders—the first in Mosul itself—and the second near the village of Qayara. We also set up rehabilitation care and psychosocial support reception points across the nine camps. Since launching this support, our teams have provided rehabilitation care to 2,500 displaced Iraqis. But the needs remains high.
"We have to put people on a waiting list for rehabilitation care because the demand is so high and our response capacities are limited due to the disengagement of emergency funding bodies," Stéphane adds. We provide care to improve the mobility of patients and ensure that they can do everyday activities such as getting out of bed, going to the toilet, etc. as autonomously as possible. We also provide them with psychological counseling because many of them have anxiety or depression. We help many people who are totally lost and don't know what their future will be like." Since the summer of 2017, Humanity & Inclusion has provided psychosocial support to 1,500 people.