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Updated On: Monday, 16 September 2019

UN Prepares for Refugees Escaping Mosul

Content by: South-South News

18 October 2016, New York, USA | South-South News — The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says up to one million people could be displaced by a government offensive to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from ISIS extremists. UNHCR said one of the most crucial issues was to provide safe sites to house those expected to be displaced by the fighting. Currently, the agency and the regional government in Iraqi Kurdistan have enough materials to shelter and help up to 400,000 people. Camps are being constructed to support the expected mass exodus from Mosul. The almost completed Zelikan camp in Duhok was meant to shelter up to 6,000 people. The camp in Debaga in the Erbil Governorate, is being built to handle the influx of possibly hundreds of thousands from the offensive to retake Mosul.

The walk from the city to the camp is long and brutal. Widat, a displaced mother, said, “'I left because I have diabetes. There is no treatment there. All the medicines are expired. We were under siege; there was nothing there. I have a disabled son which I left behind. I couldn't carry him. We walked for 13 hours.'' She added, “My disabled son calls us and cries. He wants to come here, and that he wants to have good food. There is no food left there except for bread.”

In Debaga, construction is also underway for a school for displaced children to avoid the loss of months and years of education. UNHCR said more is needed to do more and is asking for $121 million for Iraq to close a major funding gap in helping the displaced.

 

Meanwhile in Geneva, UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies held a news conference to discuss their plans for the pending flood of refugees. William Spindler, the Spokesperson for UNHCR, said the agency “is stressing that residents of Mosul seeking sanctuary must not be prevented from fleeing and that they should have access to safe areas, including emergency camps located at a reasonable distance from the front line and free from the presence of militia. Likewise civilians must not be forced to return to unsafe areas. We already have five camps open ready to shelter 45,000 people, there are plans for a total of eleven camps to open in the coming weeks with a capacity for 120,000 people.”

The Spokesperson for the World Food Program the agency is busy stockpiling food outside of Mosul. “We have over 14,000 tons of family food rations in warehouses near Mosul; that is enough for a million people for one month, around 200,000 families,” Bettina Lüscher said, “In addition we have immediate response rations; that is something that people use who don't have cooking facilities that they can use immediately as soon as they arrive in those centers. So we have enough for 240,000 people. Once the families go into shelter with cooking facilities, then they will get the monthly rations.”

Turing to the specific needs of children, Christophe Boulierac, the Spokesperson for United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said, “More than half a million children and their families in Mosul will be at extreme risk in the coming weeks. Many children and their families could be forcibly displaced, trapped between fighting lines or caught in the cross fire.”

He added that UNICEF has three major concerns in relation to Mosul: “The protection of children during the military operations; the scale and pace of displacement and its impact on our ability to deliver; and the protection of children and their access to services in the aftermath of the conflict.”

Robert Mardini, the Regional Director for the Near and Middle East of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) pleaded with the combatants to protect civilians. “The world is watching, prove your humanity, no matter what side you are on, no matter whom you are fighting. There is one more important concern – the future,” he said, “What happens now, and in the coming days and possibly weeks or months, will have a crucial barring on how Iraq rebuilds itself once the gun has finally fallen silent. Those who are commanding and those who are being commanded must not forget this. A city, a country, will have to be rebuilt”.

 

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