Providing life-saving humanitarian aid to Mosul residents 'difficult'

By Andrew V. Pestano  |  Dec. 19, 2016 at 12:20 PM
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MOSUL, Iraq, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- The Iraqi government and humanitarian organizations are facing difficulty to provide life-saving aid to people in Mosul amid fierce battle against the Islamic State.

Oxfam estimates about 1 million people remain in Mosul. Kai Tabacek, Oxfam's digital press officer, said about 100,000 people have managed to escape the violence in the city.

"Unfortunately, it's very difficult for humanitarian agencies like Oxfam to get into Mosul itself," Tabacek told RT. "Still more than a million people, we believe, are trapped inside Mosul and they are at risk from being caught by sniper fire, explosive devices. And it's really important that all sides in this conflict provide safe escape routes for those people to leave."

Tabacek said those in Mosul face a "dire humanitarian situation," but added that even if Mosul is liberated from the Islamic State, the humanitarian crisis in Iraq is far from over.

"More than 3 million people that are displaced in northern Iraq. And that's not only from Mosul, that's a number of other areas that have been recaptured in the last few years. This is a crisis that is not going to go away anytime soon," Tabacek said.

Proper medical treatment is also difficult to deliver. There is a stopgap medical center near Mosul, which is two hours way from a better-equipped facility. Some patients do not survive the journey.

Altaf Musani, who heads the World Health Organization's efforts in Iraq, said the worst in the medical crisis is yet to come because Mosul's most densely populated areas remain under Islamic State control.

Nineveh province senior health official Ahmed Doberdani told The Washington Post that although the Iraqi and Kurdish governments had been working for months to position medical staff and supplies as close to Mosul as possible, the large scale of the offensive has strained resources.

"This is a huge military operation, and the scale of the injuries to civilians and military personnel -- especially civilians -- has been very big and surprising," Doberdani said.

Iraq's Minister for Displacement and Migration Darbaz Muhammad said about 118,000 people so far have been displaced mainly from Mosul but also Hawija, Rudaw reported.

"Nearly 2,000 people are displaced on a daily basis," Muhammad said, adding that authorities are preparing the arrival of 120,000 more internally displaced persons.

People who have fled Mosul since Iraqi security forces began an offensive on Oct. 17 to capture the city held by the Islamic State have been relocated to humanitarian camps and host communities, Muhammad said.

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