MOSUL, Iraq — It has been almost three years since Islamic State (IS) jihadists captured an integral proportion of northern and western Iraq. The caliphate proposed by IS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi has cast a shadow over Iraq for these long years. Since Oct. 17, 2016, a U.S.-backed Iraqi coalition also consisting of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, Sunni Arab tribesmen and Shia militiamen has been working towards recovering and liberating the Iraqi city of Mosul from IS forces.
Iraqi government forces have made significant and noteworthy gains over the past few months. The eastern front of Mosul is now completely under government control. In recent weeks, the airport, key government buildings, bridges, the infamous Badoush prison, and other centers controlled by Islamic State militants have been recovered.
Unfortunately, more than 750,000 individuals are caught in the conflict zone. They are imperiled by the combined effects of mass displacement, a depleting food supply, and other essential resources owing to the decrease in the aid to Mosul. According to Iraqi authorities, an estimated 14,000 people flee the city every day as the recovery of Mosul against ISIL enters a phase of attrition.
Humanitarian organizations such as the UNHCR are finding it difficult to channel aid to Mosul due to the sheer amount of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) that need to be catered to. Hammam Al-Alil, Qayyarah, Haj Ali, and various IDP camps are reaching their maximum capacities. The Hammam Al-Alil camp has had to add 4,000 more tents in order to house the displaced individuals.
According to recent U.N. statistics, 60 percent of the civilians in Mosul do not have access to potable drinking water. As a result, addressing the lack of drinking water has become one of the most primary concerns for aid agencies at the moment.
However, as supply routes and avenues slowly begin to open up with the push to retake west Mosul, it will be easier for humanitarian aid to reach vulnerable civilians. Many individuals now even have prospects of returning to the areas that have been recovered by the coalition forces.
Foreign aid to Mosul is also playing a pivotal role in equipping civilians with adequate amounts of humanitarian assistance that encompasses food, shelter, healthcare, sanitation and water. The European Commission recently pledged EUR 42.5 million to aid in the crisis; the EU has channeled aid worth EUR 309 million since 2015.
Similarly, the Norwegian People’s Aid is working with six organizations to provide food vouchers in key provinces. Furthermore, the Kurdish Human Rights Organization (KHRO) and the Zhya Organization are taking an active role in the provision of aid to Mosul especially after the recovery of many key areas. Volunteer medics from the Multinational Emergency Response Medical Team, a Canadian aid group, are also performing pivotal work on the front lines by providing vital medical facilities to the people.
The UNHCR and its prominent partners are carefully identifying, monitoring and overseeing routes to ensure the safe passage of fleeing IDPs. Additionally, the UNHCR is working to provide aid to Mosul by allocating welfare services like education, helping unaccompanied children, and giving assistance to returnees who want to resume their prior way of life. The UNHCR is also majorly tasked with running the IDP camps and overseeing safety and security there.
In conclusion, efforts to provide and improve the provision and efficient channeling of humanitarian aid to Mosul will be a key priority for all stakeholder groups tasked with ensuring the protection of civilians. As the city is retaken, the inflow of aid will improve to an even larger extent, thereby abating the humanitarian emergency considerably.
– Shivani Ekkanath