In Mosul, women and children face impossible choice: risk their lives fleeing city or stay for battle to come
As the military operation approaches Mosul, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) warns that residents, including up to 900,000 women and children, will have to make the terrible decision to risk their lives escaping ISIS, or stay and face the oncoming onslaught.
The city’s most vulnerable people, including the elderly, pregnant women, and those with young children, are the least able to flee the city.
Aleksandar Milutinovic, the International Rescue Committee’s Iraq County Director, said:
“As people hear the fighting getting closer to their homes, many in Mosul will decide that their children and loved ones will be safer risking minefields and capture by ISIS than getting caught up in the crossfire. We know from speaking with people who recently escaped Hawija that ISIS will be increasing their patrols of the city, and anyone caught trying to escape risks execution. For those who do slip past, mines and explosive devices will undoubtedly result in casualties.”
However, many of the most vulnerable will struggle to flee, leaving them more likely to get caught up in the fighting. Milutinovic said:
“While those who attempt to escape Mosul face horrific obstacles to reach safety, we can’t forget those unable to take the dangerous journey. The IRC is particularly concerned that those left behind for the fighting to come will include some of the most vulnerable of Mosul’s civilians, including the elderly, pregnant women, those with young children, as well as women and girls who have lost male relatives.”
It is expected that as many as 200,000 people could flee from the city in these first weeks, though there are currently only 60,000 tents available in seven emergency camps.
In total, up to 1 million people could flee their homes in search of safety during the military operation, with an estimated 700,000 requiring shelter, food, water and other vital aid. The majority will end up seeking shelter in abandoned buildings, schools and mosques in the towns and villages around Mosul.
The IRC’s mobile response teams are waiting close to the frontline to the north, east and south of the city and are ready to reach the most vulnerable. The IRC teams will provide $420 in cash to 5,000 families (30,000 people) so they can buy food, pay rent and buy clothes, blankets and cooking utensils.
Another 30,000 will be given essential items, provided with legal support or identified as needing specialist care. With more funding the IRC could increase the reach of its response to 90,000 people.
After escaping the city, men and boys over the age of 14 will be security screened. This may take several days and it will be critical conditions are suitable, and people are provided with food, water, medical care and adequate communication on the process. The IRC will be one of the few aid agencies present at these centres, helping to ensure that the most vulnerable are identified, prioritised and, if necessary, given medical care.
Those fleeing Mosul will have lived under the nightmare of ISIS’s rule for two years. Many will have gone without medical care, struggled to pay for food and been traumatised by the violence they have witnessed.
A significant number will require specialist help going far beyond the immediate needs of food, water and shelter in the months to come. The IRC’s teams of child protection and women’s protection experts will seek to support those most in need of additional care in the coming weeks.
You can read more about life in Mosul and the IRC’s planned respond here and the stories of Iraqis who recently fled ISIS controlled areas here.
(Source: International Rescue Committee)