With the final battle for Mosul in Iraq expected to play out in the coming days, the UN fears that up to 100,000 civilians still trapped in the city may be used as human shields by IS. International disaster relief charity ShelterBox is standing ready to aid families who manage to escape. They say, ‘The military are talking about the beginning of the end, however the human suffering is far from over.’
The narrow and tightly-packed streets of Mosul’s old quarter are the last battleground between Iraqi forces and IS. It is three years since Mosul fell to so-called Islamic State rule, and now nine months since military action to retake the city began. 850,000 civilians have fled in that time, and up to 100,000 are thought to remain.
United Nations Humanitarian Chief Lise Grande describes their condition as ‘desperate’ as they continue to face daily thirst, starvation and violence, with no access to healthcare or humanitarian aid. Iraqi forces have dropped leaflets urging residents to flee before the final battle. IS are reported to be shooting people that try to leave and welding doors shut so trapped residents can be used as human shields.
Aid agencies, including ShelterBox, are based within eighty kilometres of Mosul to help any families that manage to flee. Since October the number of escapees has exceeded the UN’s ‘worst case scenario’ of 750,000 that was planned for, said Grande. New displacement camps have been built and existing ones extended, but the system is over-saturated by numbers.
ShelterBox, experts in emergency shelter, are now focusing on highly portable aid kits for families on the move. Alice Jefferson and Rachel Hall are in Erbil working with partner agencies to prepare for Mosul’s endgame.
Alice says, ‘We are in Erbil working to provide emergency shelter and vital supplies to those most in need across the region via our dedicated partners. Fighting is intensifying in Mosul. A fresh assault has begun, and we hear reports confirming the start of what could be the final intensive urban battle.’
It’s turning from horrific to absolute hell for civilians trapped. Numbers are unknown, but reports suggest up to 100,000. The military are talking about the beginning of the end, however the human suffering is far from over.
Tomorrow (June 20) is the United Nations’ World Refugee Day. At present ShelterBox is responding to refugee crises in the Syrian region and Iraq, Cameroon, Niger and Chad. A team will also shortly be heading to Uganda, which has the world’s largest refugee camp at Bidi Bidi, home to 800,000 people, many fleeing war in South Sudan. ShelterBox has a flexible range of aid including tools, tents, tarpaulins, solar lights and other equipment to create shelters or repair buildings where there is no other possible provision.
Millions of people have been forced to flee their homes with no promise of safety where ever they end up. We are doing all we can, but I have looked into the eyes of a mother in a refugee camp and I know that we must do more. Please give to help us offer more support to refugees around the world.
Chief Executive Chris Warham
NOTES TO EDITORS
- Photos above are free to use in the context of this press release, please credit ©ShelterBox. They show a mother and son at a refugee camp in Iraq Kurdistan, and ShelterBox aid being unloaded in Erbil, Iraq.
- ShelterBox supporter Dame Judi Dench says, ‘When disaster strikes and families are left with nothing, ShelterBox brings hope. Responding to each situation individually, ShelterBox gives tailor made support – a place to live, equipment to cook with and to purify water, mosquito nets in the summer, scarves and blankets in the winter and SchoolBoxes to provide young people with the stability of the classroom. I support ShelterBox and the crucial work they do all over the world helping families who have lost everything. Shelter and togetherness are stepping stones to recovery. If you are able, please give what you can via www.shelterboxcanada.org/donate’