NRCs response to the Mosul crisis

As of 24 January 2017, more than 180,000 people had fled Mosul and its outskirts. 112,000 people have taken refuge in displacement camps and emergency sites

NRC has been scaling up our emergency response since October 2016, and prepare to help up to 200,000 of the most vulnerable displaced people within the next months.

NRCs emergency response
Published 11. Nov 2016|Edited 24. Jan 2017

Since the beginning of November 2016, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people arriving at displacement camps around Mosul.

On 29 December, military operations intensified, causing over 9,000 people to flee the city in the space of four days, according to UNOCHA.

On 24 January, as the Mosul operation enters its 100th day today, the majority of civilians remain trapped in desperate conditions. An estimated 750,000 Iraqis are inside western Mosul still under ISIS control with initial reports indicating severe food, water, fuel and medical shortages.

“The rate of civilian casualties remains worryingly high as people are not able to flee to safety. Among the ones who have escaped, we are meeting Iraqis with urgent medical needs. Some have told us they walked for over ten hours in the cold without any water or food, and they are in need of a roof over their heads, warm clothes, medical assistance, and food and water. Those still trapped inside Mosul city are in even graver danger due to the fighting and shortages and, 100 days since the fighting started, we still have no way to reach them.”said NRC's Country Director in Iraq, Wolfgang Gressmann on 24 January.

More than 180,000 displaced

The new year started with more civilian casualties and more people displaced in Iraq, which is currently undergoing one of the most complex and volatile conflicts in the world. More than 180,000 Iraqis are currently displaced as a result of the fighting in Mosul city, which started on 17 October. 

Since the start of the Mosul campaign, NRC has reached over 100,000 people with with emergency packages including bottled water, tinned food, soap and towels, across the Mosul corridor and in the displacement camps. NRC is also providing education and recreational activities to thousands of children.

According to UNOCHA, newly displaced people are largely moving to the south and east, where they are provided humanitarian assistance in camps run by the government and NGOs. People are also seeking shelter with friends and family members in neighbourhoods further east of frontline areas.

NRCs emergency response:
  • NRC is responding to the Mosul emergency providing emergency food parcels, drinking water, hygiene and baby kits to displaced families, providing legal assistance with registration and civil documentation, and educational activities for children.

  • On 4 November 2016, NRC observed a dramatic increase in the number of people arriving at displacement camps around Mosul. We saw the increase in the need of food and water in the camps where NRC is handing out these lifesaving packages to people upon arrival. While the relief packages served 6,737 people from 17 October to 3 November, 9,018 people received such assistance on the day of 4 November alone. 

  • Between 16 November and 14 December, NRC provided almost 70,000 individuals fleeing Mosul and surrounding areas with emergency packages including bottled water, tinned food, soap and towels. 
  • Since 2010, NRC has provided humanitarian assistance to internally displaced people (IDPs) across Iraq and to Syrian refugees in the country. NRC has offices located in Anbar province, Baghdad, Erbil, Dohuk and Kirkuk.
  • NRC is part of the Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) led by UNICEF and the World Food Programme, which enables us to quickly help newly displaced people with urgent life-saving assistance.
  • NRC has the capacity within its current frameworks to provide RRM supplies for 45,000 families; emergency shelter/NFI and hygiene items to up to 50,000 IDPs and emergency education for 3,600 children within the first three months of displacement.
  • Displacement estimates are high and critical gaps still exist in all sectors. NRC has been scaling up our emergency response since October 2016, and prepare to help up to 200,000 of the most vulnerable displaced people within the next months. 
Updated 16 January 2017
Humanitarian situation in Iraq:
  • More than 1 million civilians are at risk of being affected by the on-going military operations to retake Mosul.

  • At least 700,000 will need urgent assistance in the form of shelter, food, water or medical support.

  • As of 24 January, over 180,000 people have been displaced since the offensive started on 17 October. Humanitarian partners are providing emergency assistance in camps and host communities.

  • 80 per cent of the displaced people have found shelter in camps and emergency sites.

  • Many displaced people have headed to Debaga camp in Erbil, where the population has increased from 3,700 people in March 2016 to over 35,000, with camp capacity originally set up for 5,000 people with additional space for 1,000 people at the nearby stadium. Over 58,000 have passed through the camp since March, although at least 12,000 have left through sponsorship mechanisms, largely to Kirkuk.

  • Iraq’s population is 33.4 million. Of that 3.1 million people are internally displaced. More than 620,000 have been newly displaced in 2016 alone.

  • As of 8 January, contributions for the Mosul Flash Appeal have reached US$273 million, representing over 96 per cent of the required amount. With incoming contributions, partners continue to scale up the humanitarian response. The 2016 Humanitarian Response Plan for all of Iraq has received 84 per cent of the US$861 million needed to provide life-saving assistance to 7.3 million vulnerable Iraqis.
Updated 16 January 2017
Read caption © Norwegian Refugee Council. Source: NRC, OCHA.

A survey carried out by NRC last month among displaced Iraqis from Mosul found a remarkable majority optimistic about returning home one day and living safely in their country. Sixty per cent desired to return back to their homes as soon as conditions allow, and a similar percentage of Iraqis interviewed said they preferred staying in Iraq even if they had the chance to leave to another country. For the families who have returned to areas retaken by the Government, the conditions have barely improved. Many are living in unsafe conditions, without access to services, education, and job opportunities.

“Iraqis have not given up on a safe and peaceful future after more than a decade of conflict and suffering,” Gressmann said. “We have yet to see a concerted plan by the international community on how it will support the Iraqi government to make sure this happens. While aid agencies are providing emergency relief, this is not enough unless Iraqis can live in peace and side by side. We now have the chance to make sure that their optimistic hopes, rather than their worst fears, become a reality.”

Providing emergency assistance

Since May 2016, NRC has provided emergency humanitarian assistance to families fleeing their homes in towns and villages around Mosul. Camps have been set up to assist those fleeing conflict. In Debaga camp, NRC has provided water, food, hygiene items and baby kits to more than 8,000 families. 

"We are now scaling up our emergency response, and prepare to help up to 200,000 of the most vulnerable displaced people within the next 6 months," said Head of NRC’s Emergency Response Section, Mads Almaas, in October 2016.

As of 14 December 2016, NRC has space to receive 39,828 new people, and aid agencies are working to build and prepare space an additional 452,000 people. We are in a race against time to have additional camps prepared before the existing sites fill up. With additional funding, the aid community are preparing to accommodate a total of 520,000 people in camps, including existing camps, camps under construction and planned camps.

Fearing the winter

Almaas underlined that the response comes in addition to the existing displaced population in the country. 

"It is important to remember that the number of Iraqis displaced by the recent fighting comes in addition to all those who have already fled to escape conflict in other parts of the country, notably the displaced on Sindjar mountain in 2014, and from Falluja this summer," said Almaas, "This offensive also comes at a time of the year were temperatures drop – some of the areas in the north, where the camps are located, temperatures can drop below zero at night."

Under the harsh rule of ISIS

Newly arrived people in the camps describe a harsh reality under ISIS where everything has been strictly controlled, with little personal freedom. Children have been deprived of education, and young people tell us about inhumane punishment in ISIS prisons.

We are concerned about reports of civilians having to hand in their ID papers upon arrival at the camps as it may impair access to services, as well as limit their freedom of movement. We are also concerned about the general suspicion of ISIS-affiliation directed towards any civilian who have fled oppression and war. How these people are treated now will serve as an example of dignified treatment of civilians of any background, religion or ethnicity in a post-ISIS Iraq.

(NRC’s Country Director in Iraq, Wolfgang Gressmann on 5 November 2016)

Just the beginning

According to NRC the steep increase is just the beginning. Mosul has a large population that is comparable to that of Munich, Birmingham or Hawaii. It is estimated that at least 1.2 million people are trapped inside the city. At least 700,000 people might soon require humanitarian assistance.

"This is the beginning of a massive exodus from Mosul city. We must insist that civilians fleeing have genuinely safe exit routes out of the city. The international community needs to understand the gravity of this and act accordingly, and get prepared with the support that people fleeing will need", said Gressmann in November 2016.

Over the last months and weeks, people who fled tell us that getting hold of food other basic commodities has become increasingly difficult inside ISIS controlled areas. Most of those we spoke to describe a long journey on foot, including elderly people and children

(NRC’s Country Director in Iraq, Wolfgang Gressmann on 5 November 2016)

Need for shelter

More camps have been set up in high speed. NRC are working in the camps distributing emergency food aid, water and hygiene kits, as well as organising education activities and psychosocial help for children.