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Thousands of Iraqis Flee Heavy Fighting in Western Mosul

  • Lisa Schlein

Displaced Iraqis, who fled fighting between Iraqi security forces and Islamic State militants, gather for food at a camp for internally displaced people in Hamam al-Alil, some 10 kilometers south of Mosul, Iraq, March 2, 2017.

The United Nations reports more than 190,000 people — over half of them children — have fled Mosul since Iraqi government forces began their offensive on October 17 to retake the city from Islamic State insurgents.

A significant increase in the number of people fleeing western Mosul was reported last week, as fighting between Iraqi soldiers and Islamic State militants intensified. The U.N. estimates about 30,000 people have become displaced, half of them children.

Bastien Vigneau is the U.N. Children's Fund Emergency Coordinator for Mosul operations in Iraq. Speaking by telephone from Baghdad, he says the children and their families have been arriving in desperate condition at a camp for displaced people in Hamam al-Alil, which is 20 kilometers south of Mosul.

Displaced Iraqis, who fled fighting between Iraqi security forces and Islamic State militants, gather to receive humanitarian aid at a camp for internally displaced people in Hamam al-Alil, some 10 kilometers south of Mosul, Iraq, March 2, 2017.
Displaced Iraqis, who fled fighting between Iraqi security forces and Islamic State militants, gather to receive humanitarian aid at a camp for internally displaced people in Hamam al-Alil, some 10 kilometers south of Mosul, Iraq, March 2, 2017.

"Basically, the children and the families that we meet in Hamam al-Alil are most likely coming by buses," Vigneau said. "This is organized by the military. And I have seen, for example, I was there yesterday, they really carry the bare minimum. They seem to be quite exhausted. I would say they have been in this situation for 2½ years and extremely frightened, of course, by the operations happening."

Vigneau says the new arrivals describe conditions in Mosul as dire and getting worse. He says they report that one kilo of rice costs $60, with food, water, medicine and fuel are running low.

While up to 750,000 people in the city remain inaccessible to humanitarians, it is possible to reach some that are trapped there, according to Vigneau.

He says UNICEF, the World Food Program, and the U.N. Population Fund are planning an aid mission to west Mosul this weekend. They will deliver a month's worth of food, water, dried biscuits and other relief to some 4,000 families, including 12,000 children.

For security reasons, Vigneau did not name the neighborhoods that will receive aid.

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