“Ten minutes into our journey, two of my daughters tripped a wire connected to an explosive device planted on the ground, and it went off. My nine year old daughter was killed immediately. Nothing remained of her,” says Ibrahim Hussein Mohammed tearfully, when we meet him and what is left of his family in a tent in Debaga Camp. The camp currently hosts over 8,000 families who have fled their homes in cities surrounding Mosul city, and elsewhere.
“Ten minutes into our journey, two of my daughters tripped a wire connected to an explosive device planted in the ground and it went off. My nine year old daughter was killed immediately. Nothing remained of her.IBRAHIM HUSSEIN MOHAMMED, father and displaced from Mosul
He continues with tearful voice: “We buried her in the rubble. Another daughter aged 17 had her leg blown off. Her mother carried her as I have serious heart problems. She carried her for an hour until we reached the army. They welcomed us and wanted to help us, but by the time we reached her my second daughter was already dead. They then transported us to Debaga Camp in cars.”
Caught in the crossfire
Some 1.2 million Iraqi civilians are now in grave danger. With no safe routes out for civilians and Mosul city now under heavy attack, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are at extreme risk of being caught in the crossfire, being killed by landmines or other explosive devices, or of coming under attack in their own homes. Establishing genuinely safe routes out of the city for civilians should be given top priority.
One of Mohammed’s younger children has been traumatised by what she saw, seeing two of her sisters die in front of her. She doesn’t speak any more and is restless.
“I have another daughter in Mosul. I last saw her four months ago and I haven’t been able to speak to her since. She’s married to a man from Mosul but they can’t leave as the roads out are blocked. I hope the city is retaken soon so that at least I can get back one of my daughters,” he continues.
Mohammed and his family are originally from Shirqat, 80km south of Mosul, but have been living in Gannoush after ISIS forced them to leave their home.
Worried about winter
“We left from Ganoush village to Al Haj Ali a few weeks ago, but we didn’t manage to take anything with us,” he says.
Now he is worried about the winter: “When it starts raining it will get very muddy and our tent will get flooded. We hope our neighbourhoods are cleared soon so we can go back. That would be much better than staying here in winter. I want to return home as soon as possible, but we can’t go back until the entire area is retaken.
Working round the clock
“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's Country Director in Iraq, Wolfgang Gressmann.
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.
“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.MADS ALMAAS, Head of NRC’s Emergency Response Section
Mohammed sees no future
Mohammed sees now future for his home country: “There is no future for Iraq. Crises keeps happening one after the other, it isn’t safe anymore. Iraq is over, there’s no future in it. I don’t have any future. It would have been better if I was already dead and not see my daughters get killed. There are no schools, no education, no future is there in Iraq. It keeps going from one war to another. How many years has Iraq been in wars? Iraq used to be the source of peace and goodness, it is now the least country to offer that. All other countries sympathise with us. We receive assistance now from other countries, and not from Iraq. Iraq used to be the father of goodness, but there is no future, no work.”