Read caption More than 700 families received water and food from the NRC distribution on 4 November. The number of displaced around Mosul this day was dramatically larger than any day so far since the offensive to retake Mosul started on 17 October. Photo: NRC/Alvhild Stromme.

Mosul: - Working round the clock

Roald Høvring|Published 05. Nov 2016|Edited 09. Nov 2016
Since the beginning of November there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people arriving at displacement camps around Mosul.

"We fear that the humanitarian consequences of this operation will be massive, and our staff have been working round the clock to prepare for a mass exodus of families expected to seek safety and our humanitarian assistance," says NRC Country Director, Wolfgang Gressmann.

From 17 October to 3 November NRC served relief packages to 6,737 people and , on the day of 4 November alone 9,018 people received such assistance. 5 November food and water was distributed to yet another 1,000 families. Most of the people arrived in Hashansham, namely in the two camps Khazar and U3. The families had fled the suburbs of Mosul, mostly from the neighbourhood of Gagjari.

Read caption © Norwegian Refugee Council. Source: NRC, OCHA.

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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," says Head of NRC’s Emergency Response Section, Mads Almaas.

Update | NRC 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 NRC observed a dramatic increase in the number of people arriving at displacement camps around Mosul. We see 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 17th October to 3rd November, 9,018 people received such assistance on the day of 4th of November alone. 

  • 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 plans to reach up to 200,000 most vulnerable IDPs within the next 6 months.  
Updated 05 November
Read caption SUFFERING CHILDREN. Displaced Iraqi children in Debaga Camp don't have toys or games to play. The camp currently hosts over 8,000 families who have fled their homes in Mosul, surrounding cities and elsewhere. NRC is there distributing drinking water, food parcels, hygiene and baby kits, in addition to providing educational programmes for school-aged children. Photo: Elias Abu Ata/NRC

Fearing the winter

Almaas underlines that the response comes in addition to the existing displaced population in the country. He also stresses that the winter with its cold is approaching: 

"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," says 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."

About the 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.
  • More than 22,000 people are currently displaced and in need of humanitarian assistance. Partners are providing emergency assistance in camps and host communities.
  • More than 140,000 people are currently displaced along the so-called Mosul corridor
  • Many displaced people have headed to Debaga camp in Erbil, where the population has increased from 3,700 people in March 2016 to over 28,000, 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.
Updated 05 November

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. (5 November)

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", says Gressmann.

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. (5 November))
Read caption SHELTER. Hasan Sham Camp is one of several sites being set up to accommodate families fleeing from Mosul City. The camp is around 20 kilometres away from the city centre of Hamdaniya. Work is still ongoing, but at present the newly set up camps can accommodate up to 60,000 individuals, while up to 200,000 are expected to flee in the first weeks of the offensive. Photo: Karl Schembri/NRC


Need for shelter

More camps are now being set up in high speed. Hasan Sham Camp is one of several sites being set up to accommodate families fleeing from Mosul City. The camp is around 20 kilometres away from the city centre of Hamdaniya. Work is still ongoing, but at present the new camps can accommodate up to 60,000 individuals, while as many as 200,000 are expected to flee during the first weeks of the offensive.

NRC will be working in the camp distributing emergency food aid, water and hygiene kits, as well as organising education activities and psychosocial help for children.