Read caption Displaced families in Khazar camp, Hasansham, Iraq. Photo: NRC/ Alvhild Stromme

Conditions for civilians worsen as battle for Mosul mounts

PRESS RELEASE|Published 12. Nov 2016|Edited 13. Nov 2016
As the battle to recapture Mosul intensifies, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is increasingly concerned about the fate of 1.2 million Iraqis trapped in the city, who tell of desperate conditions trying to survive.

Close to 50,000 people have fled Mosul since the military offensive began on 17 October to recapture the city from ISIS. The number of people displaced increased drastically in the past week alone, with more than 20,000 people recorded, compared to some 6,000 the week before.

“Civilians have told us of horrific stories from inside Mosul. They have given terrifying accounts of ISIS moving them from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, and from house to house, in tactics identical with being used as human shields,” said NRC’s Country Director in Iraq, Wolfgang Gressmann.

Civilians are also repeatedly being caught in the crossfire. One father NRC spoke with said three members of his family were killed when their house was shelled. The mother and her two children escaped alive, but all three were badly burnt.

Parents told us about not being able to take injured family members to hospital because of the repeated shelling. Some people had not eaten for days, having run out of food and too afraid to leave their homes.

NRC is also concerned about harrowing reports of civilians being hanged, beheaded and tortured.

“Civilians must not be used as weapons of war,” warned Gressmann. “Innocent men, women and children must be protected. Clear rules govern war and these rules need to be respected by all sides.”

People who have fled Mosul are increasingly afraid to speak publically about their experiences under ISIS, for fear of retaliation on family members still trapped inside the city.

Seventy per cent of people fleeing Mosul are arriving to displacement sites, where aid agencies such as NRC are providing them with basic essentials like food, water and shelter. NRC is also providing psychosocial support to children who are suffering from trauma.

NRC is also concerned about humanitarian needs in areas of the city that have been brought under Iraqi government control, where tens of thousands of civilians lack access to water, food, electricity and basic health services. The humanitarian community must not only provide assistance in camps, but also provide a coordinated response to people in their areas of origin, as the security situation allows.

“NRC calls on the government to ensure humanitarian access to these areas, to rapidly restore law and order, and to expedite the clearance of mines and unexploded ordnances so people in need can be assisted,” said Wolfgang Gressmann.

Facts about the humanitarian situation in Iraq

  • More than 1 million civilians are at risk of being affected by the ongoing military operations to retake Mosul. At least 700,000 are likely to need urgent assistance in the form of shelter, food, water or medical support.
  • The humanitarian community launched the Mosul emergency appeal for US$284 million in July. Four months on and only 64 per cent has been received.
  • The annual aid appeal for Iraq is only 62 per cent funded of US$861 requested by the UN. The impact of under-funding for the operation as a whole has been enormous.
  • An estimated 10 million people are in humanitarian need across Iraq.
  • Some 3.3 million people have been internally displaced since January 2014.
  • The Kurdistan Region of Iraq hosts some 250,000 refugees from Syria.

Quotes and photos of newly displaced families. Please feel free to use:

  • Photos from displacement camps: and
  • Short B-Roll video clips from Khazer displacement camp:


The Norwegian Refugee Council is a humanitarian organisation working in more than 25 countries globally, including Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Turkey and Yemen. It has been working in Iraq since 2010. For more information log onto

Media contacts in Erbil, Iraq Phone number:
Michelle Delaney, Media Adviser,, + 964 750 878 7793
NRC Iraq media hotline, Erbil, + 964 751 171 175