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Library / Iraq: Mosul Humanitarian Response Situation Report...
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 2016
Topics: Humanitarian Assistance
The commencement on 17 October of the operation to retake Mosul city from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) marked an escalation of the Level 3 emergency in Iraq. There are grave concerns for the women and men, girls and boys caught up in what could become the single largest and most complex humanitarian crisis in the world in 2016.
Reports on the first three days of the operation indicate that military activities on the ground have taken place in less populated areas. Displacement is expected to rise as the hostilities intensify closer to and in densely populated areas. As of 19 October, the International Organization for Migration’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (IOM/DTM) had recorded 5,640 people moving in two directions, south and south-east of Mosul. The majority - 5,400 people - were displaced from Hamam Al Alil, Al Shura and Al Qayyarah to Al Houd and other parts of Al Qayyarah subprovince in the south-east of Mosul district in Ninewa Governorate. The second movement of 240 people took place from Gwer to Debaga in Erbil Governorate. In addition, the UN Refugee Agency reported that over 900 refugees crossed from Baaj in Ninewa Governorate into Syria and reached a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) at Al Hol in Hassakeh.
Twenty-four hours after the town of Al Houd was retaken, an OCHA-led interagency mission including UNICEF and the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) reached Al Houd, north of Qayyarah, where 550 vulnerable families had sought shelter. In Al Houd, UNICEF delivered 3,000 sets of bottled water and 1,500 hygiene kits. As soon as initial reports of families arriving in Al Qayyarah were recorded, partners were on the ground to deliver immediate assistance via the Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM), assess urgent humanitarian needs and protection concerns.
As first line responders begin to gain access to rural areas retaken in the first days of the operation, the devastating impact of more than two years of control by ISIL is coming to light. The retreat of the armed group has left behind a lethal legacy of roadside bombs and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) which line major roads to the north of Al Qayyarah. In the rural areas south-east of Mosul, 19 oil wells have been set ablaze by retreating armed groups in the area south of Mosul, specifically around the town of Al Qayyarah. People arriving to Al Qayyarah seeking refuge face serious health risks. Burning crude oil produces a wide range of pollutants, including soot and gases. The subsequent effects on local populations’ and the health of affected communities depend on the concentration of the pollutants inhaled, as well as the duration of exposure and proximity to the oil fires. Potential health effects of exposure entail skin irritation; runny nose; cough; shortness of breath; irritation of eyes, nose and throat; as well as aggravation of sinus and asthma conditions. In the same area around Al Qayyarah, industrial installations are reported to have been damaged, including a sulfur plant located 2.6km from the Tigris/Great Zab confluence. Similar to the burning of crude oil, the release of pollutants from burning industrial facilities harms breathing and may cause respiratory illnesses, in addition to damaging the local environment. The release of toxic substances from damaged industrial facilities remains a concern, as there are several such plants in the area around Mosul.
The UN and partners are preparing for a rapid rise in displacement as operations move into Mosul. A total of 10,014 plots are currently available for 60,084 people. A further 60,940 plots for 365,640 people are planned or under construction. Three camps – Qayyarah Jad’ah, Qayyarah Airstrip and Haj Ali - to the south and south-west of Mosul have been identified as priority sites for the first waves of displacement.
At the same time, humanitarian partners are deeply concerned about the intensification of fighting in urban areas, and its potential humanitarian consequences for the people of Mosul city living under the control of ISIL. Humanitarian actors expect that as many as 1.2 to 1.5 million people who are still in Mosul city could be affected. Civilians will be at extreme risk from cross-fire and snipers. Tens of thousands of people may be forcibly expelled, trapped between fighting lines, under siege or held as human shields. Chemical weapons may be used. Public facilities, thoroughfares and homes may be booby-trapped or contaminated by explosive hazards. Children, the elderly and disabled will be particularly vulnerable.
Humanitarian partners have been preparing intensively for months to respond to the needs of people displaced by the anticipated Mosul operation. The Mosul crisis unfolds as humanitarian partners in Iraq are already struggling to provide aid to some 10 million people who are in need of some form of humanitarian assistance across the country, including 3.3 million internally displaced people, many for the second or third time. Displacement and return movements continue to be registered in other areas of Iraq, generating additional needs in a context of significant funding shortfalls. By year’s end, depending on the scale and duration of the Mosul operation, as many 12 to 13 million Iraqis are expected to require humanitarian assistance.