Mosul – With the battle for West Mosul all but over last week, evidence of a humanitarian calamity that is now just beginning to unravel paints the picture of a crisis that may go well beyond previous expectations, reports IOM Iraq’s Hala Jaber.
Crossing one of the floating bridges over the Tigris River that splits Mosul into twin eastern and western sectors, stark differences emerge quickly as changes in scenery appear unexpectedly.
In this tale of two cities, all indications show East Mosul to be recovering at a rapid pace, with much of its life returning to normal and a significant portion of services restored; West Mosul’s rise from the ashes is expected to take much longer.
From the hustle and bustle of life in the eastern sector, a team from IOM, the UN Migration Agency, crossed the bridge into the eerie, even deadly quiet of West Mosul, in stark contrast to the atmosphere of its twin on the other side of the Tigris, where life is recovering swiftly.
Here, life appears to have stopped.
Rows of houses and neighbourhoods lie in total ruins as far as the eye can see. The carcasses of cars, reduced to smithereens and still parked in front of the shells of what used to be homes, are testament to the ferocious fighting that took place in this part of the city.
Roads that once were jammed with vehicles are deserted and mostly disfigured by mammoth craters. Pavements where children used to play now lie under heaps of rubble. Even stray cats and dogs, which recently used to scurry about these streets and neighbourhoods, have mostly left.
The battle to retake Mosul from ISIL came at a high cost. Entire neighbourhoods of a city tracing its history back to 401 BC now lie in ruin. The Old City is almost a ghost town.
According to the UN, of the 54 residential districts in West Mosul, 15 are “flattened,” with nearly 32,000 houses destroyed in those areas. A further 23 districts are moderately damaged, with nearly half their buildings destroyed. In the 16 neighbourhoods considered “lightly” damaged, there are a combined 16,000 homes destroyed.
In the Old City alone, over 5,500 buildings have been damaged, according to a satellite imagery assessment undertaken by Habitat. Some 490 homes were destroyed in the final weeks of the offensive.
All five bridges straddling the Tigris River have been mangled; many schools and utility grids are in total ruins. Roads and highways struck by heavy shelling are strewn with gigantic craters. Mosul’s airport has been wrecked, as has the city’s historic railway and at least one university.
Officials estimate that nearly 80 per cent of Mosul’s Medical City is now a burnt shell. The Medical City was the largest health facility in the Ninewa governorate, housing several hospitals, a nearby medical school, laboratories and other medical facilities. Explosive devices still litter its floors. Several cars containing undetonated bombs detected by an IOM colleague remain parked inside.
The UN Humanitarian Response Plan for Iraq, issued in February, warned: “The operation in Mosul has the potential to be the single largest humanitarian operation in the world in 2017,” and requested USD 985 million for the year, including the estimated costs of supporting civilians impacted by fighting in Mosul.
By early July, less than half of that amount – USD 440 million – had been received.
IOM continues to provide humanitarian assistance to the tens of thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in its constructed emergency sites at Qayara Air Strip and Haji Ali, as well as to families that remain in host communities outside the camps.
However, with only 33 per cent of IOM’s USD 28.83 million appeal for the Mosul Crisis received – and 34 per cent of USD 47.46 million 2017 appeal for other areas of Iraq – the funding gap may significantly impact future humanitarian operations.
In response to the Mosul crisis, IOM has provided 287,977 medical consultations and treatments since June 2016, and provided life-saving medical devices to health centres serving large numbers of IDPs. Mobile Medical Teams continue to deliver immediate health services in the areas of greatest need.
IOM has also provided psychological services to 49,100 people, and distributed 61,600 non-food item kits to IDPs. The Organization has distributed a further 38,400 kerosene assistance kits and 9,000 boxes of clothes during the past 13 months as well.
IOM is already contributing to the rehabilitation of infrastructure in three retaken towns affected by the Mosul crisis, including: repairs to water networks, agricultural irrigation canals, a health-care centre, and electricity networks as well as school rehabilitation. It is also working to expand its work to additional retaken areas as and when the security situation allows.
To improve shelter conditions, 17,500 tents and 31 rub halls were installed by IOM and 14,415 emergency shelter kits were distributed. Shelter damage assessments have been conducted in villages south of Mosul, as far as Hamam al-Alil, and planned shelter interventions include critical shelter upgrades and rehabilitation of damaged homes.
Nonetheless, tens of thousands of families have been left without homes. Since the beginning of the Mosul operations in October 2016, the cumulative number of IDPs whose locations of displacement and/or return have been identified by IOM’s Emergency Tracking for Mosul Operations (Displacement Tracking Matrix, or DTM) reached 178,695 families, corresponding to 1,072,170 individuals.
Of these IDPs, more than 846,252 individuals (141,042 families) are still displaced. Another 225,918 IDPs have now returned, with an estimated 80 per cent going back to their districts of origin in East Mosul.
Of all the IDPs currently displaced by the Mosul operations, over 360,100 (or 42 per cent) live in camps and emergency sites around Mosul. IOM’s emergency sites host nearly 22 per cent of these individuals.
IOM Iraq Chief of Mission Thomas Lothar Weiss said, “The scale of destruction in West Mosul is enormous and the challenge of reconstruction is no small feat in ensuring the return of hundreds of thousands of displaced Iraqis to their communities and livelihoods. IOM has been on the ground since the start, providing humanitarian assistance, shelter and livelihood support, and is committed to continue with the help of the necessary funding from its donor partners.”
The DTM is collaborating closely with local authorities to extend the tracking system in West Mosul. DTM will focus particularly on setting up a returnee tracking system where levels of displacement affecting West Mosul are greater compared with those on the eastern bank of the Tigris.
The DTM will soon release its report, Mosul Military Operations: Population Movement Analysis (October 2016 to June 2017). The report provides a chronological examination of displacement and return movements that took place during the military operations which started on 17 October 2016.
IOM’s DTM actively monitors displacement across Iraq.
DTM products and information about DTM methodology can be found on the DTM portal: iraqdtm.iom.int
The latest DTM Emergency Tracking figures on displacement from Mosul are available at: http://iraqdtm.iom.int/EmergencyTracking.aspx
For more information, please contact IOM Iraq: Hala Jaber, Tel: +964 751 740 1654, Email: