“The military response must not hamper the humanitarian response”
The Iraqi armed forces are pursuing the final phase of their offensive to retake the city of Mosul in Iraq. Since the start of this military operation in October 2016, over half a million people have fled the city. Nearly 200,000 people are still trapped by the fighting and Handicap International’s teams are witnessing very big waves of displacements, with thousands of people fleeing every day. A situation viewed as highly alarming by Handicap International.
“We’re particularly worried about the 200,000 civilians trapped in the city,” says Fanny Mraz, Handicap International’s head of mission in Iraq. “They face a terrible dilemma: stay at home and run the very real risk of a bomb attack, or flee and risk being injured or killed on their way to the protection areas.”
As the fighting intensifies, the number of casualties coming out of Mosul has risen sharply in recent months. Since the start of the offensive, more than 13,500 people have required emergency care in the hospitals around Mosul. “Handicap International’s teams in the field have seen their suffering first hand. The use of explosive weapons in Mosul kills and causes serious injuries and severe psychological trauma. Since the start of our emergency response, we have been working to assist conflict-affected civilians in hospitals and camps for displaced people,” continues Fanny Mraz.
Civilians like Ali, a 1-year-old baby boy, and his family. Less than a month ago, Ali was still living in Mosul, with his brother, sister and parents. “But one day, as we were all sitting at home, armed men came to take us. They gathered us with other inhabitants of our neighbourhood and took us to a school, to use us as human shields. Bombings soon started… and Ali’s parents died instantly. His older brother too. He was only 9 years old.” explains Kitba, Ali’s aunt. Ali’s grandparents, uncle and aunt survived the bombings and fled, carrying him and his sister in their arms
Big scars are still visible on Ali’s face and he has trouble moving with the big cast on his leg. Khaled, Handicap International’s physiotherapist, advises Kitba on how to facilitate her nephew’s recovery. “As soon as the doctors will remove his cast, we’ll provide him with physiotherapy sessions. It is essential if we want him to recover well.” explains Handicap International’s physiotherapist.
As the military situation in Mosul evolves, Handicap International is calling for the protection of civilians by all necessary means, including an end to the use of explosive weapons that have a wide-area effect in densely-populated areas. It is vital that the humanitarian response is not hampered by the military response. “Our priority is to protect the population and ensure everyone can access humanitarian aid,” adds Fanny Mraz.
Handicap International provides rehabilitation care, psychological support and, as part of its ongoing prevention work, raises awareness of the threat from mines and explosive remnants of war among people from Mosul. “The population is constantly exposed to danger. It is extremely important to ensure that civilians are aware of the dangers of explosive remnants of war. Since the start of our emergency response, we have raised the awareness of more than 25,000 people,” says Handicap International’s head of mission.
- Interviews available upon request with British field staff in Iraq
- Possibility to organise media visits with Handicap International teams in Iraq
- Pictures of Ali available upon request
Marlene Sigonney, Handicap International UK
media[at]hi-uk.org | +44 (0)870 774 3737 | +44 (0)7508 810 520
Handicap International and the Iraq crisis:
More than 200,000 people have benefited from Handicap International’s actions since the launch of its emergency operations in Iraq in 2014. The organisation’s actions are regularly reviewed to take into account a highly volatile situation across the whole of Iraqi territory.
Handicap International currently organises population protection activities, raises awareness of the risk from mines and conventional weapons, conducts non-technical surveys and clears potentially hazardous areas, provides physical and functional rehabilitation and psychosocial support, supports health centres, organises training and advocacy and provides technical support to partners to enhance the inclusion of vulnerable people (people with disabilities, casualties, older people, and others) within their services.