The offensive on the Iraqi city of Mosul could result in a humanitarian crisis on an unprecedented scale and lead to the largest population displacement seen since the genocide in Rwanda1. Handicap International is concerned that the people fleeing Mosul will not all be able to access humanitarian aid. As of today, less than half of the budget required for the construction of camps to accommodate displaced families has been made available.
Up to 1.5 million civilians are likely to be directly affected by the military operation in Mosul. Over 5,600 people have already fled in the first three days of the offensive. The movement is expected to accelerate as the fighting intensifies and in the upcoming weeks between 200,000 and one million people are expected to be displaced.
“We will see entire families being displaced as they flee the fighting in a state of utter confusion, with no access to food, medicine or shelter. They will have to cross very dangerous areas of the country, contaminated by explosive remnants of war” explains Thomas Hugonnier, head of emergency response in Iraq for Handicap International.
States and international donors have approached the planning of mass coordinated humanitarian aid with apathy, despite the urgent need to prepare a large-scale humanitarian response in order to limit the current and future consequences of population displacement.
“Our teams are ready to help people displaced by the conflict in Mosul. Our intervention will be structured around four areas: psychological support, physical rehabilitation, inclusion and action against explosive weapons,” comments Thomas Hugonnier.
“People with injuries and disabilities are even more vulnerable in the context of mass displacement. They find it even harder to access health services. Therefore, we plan to deploy mobile teams which will provide physiotherapy and distribute walking aids.”
“Currently, 20% of the population of Mosul is made up of single mothers, people with disabilities and vulnerable people. Physical accessibility for the most vulnerable people is a major challenge both when moving out of "assembly areas" or around the camps (reception centres, health service camps, welfare centres, schools, etc.) and it is vital that this issue is addressed.”
Handicap International has been working in Iraq for 25 years. Since 2014, the organisation has been supporting displaced Iraqis, working as close as possible to conflict zones, sometimes only one of the very few NGOs present in the country.
“As always, we will be particularly attentive to the needs of disabled and vulnerable people. We know, from experience, that in a major crisis like this one, these people struggle to access the vital care they need and can easily find themselves excluded and forgotten,” says Aleema Shivji, Executive Director of Handicap International UK.
Interviews available upon request with field staff in Iraq and Aleema Shivji, Executive Director of Handicap International UK.
Marlene Sigonney, Handicap International UK
+44 (0)870 774 3737
Handicap International and the Iraq crisis:
Handicap International’s emergency projects have supported over 125,000 people in Iraq since 2014. Handicap International is currently educating local populations about the risks of explosive weapons and running non-technical studies and mine clearance in potential danger zones. We are also providing rehabilitation care and psychosocial support, supporting health centres (e.g.: equipment, staff training ), helping our beneficiaries accessing services, and working with other organisations to ensure that vulnerable people are included in their activities.