Six weeks after the Iraqi army launched an offensive to capture Iraq’s second largest city Mosul from the Islamic State (IS), civilian casualties are increasing by the day, and tens of thousands of people have been forced to flee from their homes.
European Union Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) and its partners are deliver emergency lifesaving assistance in active conflict areas, including emergency medical trauma care. As fighting escalates in Mosul’s densely populated areas, life-saving trauma capacity is direly needed in order to cope with an increasing number of injured people fleeing the city.
In order to ensure the delivery of emergency healthcare and surgical care along the main displacement routes out of Mosul, the EU is providing over €15m to partners such as the World Health Organization, International Medical Corps, Première Urgence, United Nations Populations Fund and La Chaîne de l'Espoir.
Meanwhile, in the camps hosting families displaced by the conflict, EU Humanitarian Aid is providing healthcare, protection, food, shelter, water and other critical assistance. In 2016, €134 million in humanitarian funding for Iraq has been mobilized by ECHO. Over €50 million of this has already been allocated to the emergency response in and around Mosul, as well as in response to the displacement out from Hawija, a city south of Mosul and the last major IS stronghold in Kirkuk province.
The European Union is also funding mental health and psychosocial care for people who have been traumatized by the conflict.
“As you can understand, people have seen some horrible things,” said Michelle Engels, who works with mental care at Action Contre La Faim, an ECHO partner organization. “Many walked for hours, saw dead bodies along the way, they heard gunfire, saw explosions. We are trying to give them a space where we can do some educational sessions about relaxation and about staying well in a crisis. We also have psychologists who can provide more intensive psychological support. It’s all about coping.”
Approximately 75 000 people have been displaced since the military offensive started on 17 October. The UN estimates that as many as additional 1.5 million people might require humanitarian support by the end of 2016. Of them, up to 700 000 people might be in need of shelter in the worst case scenario.
The crisis unfolds in a country already facing one of the biggest humanitarian crises worldwide. Some 10 million people require humanitarian assistance in Iraq; over 3.3 million of them were displaced from their homes over the past two years. Iraq is also hosting approximately 225 000 Syrian refugees in addition to about 1.1 million people who were displaced following Iraq’s 2006-2008 sectarian conflict.
Civilians trapped by the Mosul offensive are facing cross-fire, snipers and artillery barrage. Thousands may be forcibly expelled or stuck between fighting lines, while tens of thousands may be held as human shields or face sectarian reprisal attacks. Public facilities and homes are being purposely targeted, booby-trapped or contaminated by unexploded ordnance.
Speaking at the Jeddah camp for displaced Iraqis near the city of Qarayyah, Jean-Louis De Brouwer, the European Commission's humanitarian aid department's (ECHO) director for Europe, Eastern Neighborhood and the Middle East, said that it is critical that fighters on all sides abide by the principles of International Humanitarian Law.
“Money and financial support is one thing, but we also have to make sure that civilians are protected,” De Brouwer said. “We have made it clear that there are certain limits that must not be crossed and that there must be a clear division between civilians and combatants.”