U.N. warns of Mosul humanitarian crisis despite Iraqi victory

By Andrew V. Pestano  |  July 10, 2017 at 1:53 PM
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July 10 (UPI) -- The United Nations said though the battle against the Islamic State for Mosul has ended, a humanitarian crisis persists as hundreds of thousands of residents cannot return home.

The United Nations estimates about 920,000 civilians fled from their Mosul homes since the Iraqi military effort to capture the city from Islamic State-control began in October. Nearly 700,000 Mosul residents -- or Moslawis -- remain displaced and are living in Iraq's 19 humanitarian camps for internally displaced persons.

Lise Grande, the United Nation's humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, on Monday said that 15 of west Mosul's 54 residential neighborhoods are heavily damaged, while 23 are moderately damaged -- which inhibits the safe return of residents.

Iraq declared victory in Mosul on Sunday.

"Many of the people who have fled have lost everything. They need shelter, food, healthcare, water, sanitation and emergency kits. The levels of trauma we are seeing are some of the highest anywhere. What people have experienced is nearly unimaginable," Grande said. "It's a relief to know that the military campaign in Mosul is ending. The fighting may be over, but the humanitarian crisis is not."

The United Nations said it has received 43 percent of the $985 million it estimates it needs to meet the needs of those affected by the conflict wrought by the Islamic State.

Grande in January warned there could be a humanitarian crisis "legacy" after the Islamic State's defeat.

But despite the devastation that occurred under the rule of the Islamic State, some Moslawis are determined to claim back their lives. In east Mosul, which Iraq captured in late January, Rabah Mahmoud Ali and his family returned home to find the roof and the first floor of their home badly damaged by bombs, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said in a report.

The family's possessions were looted and all windows had been shattered. To repair his home, Ali said he took some loans. Ali, a teacher, said he wants "Mosul to get back on its feet" after the defeat of the Islamic State, which took control of the city in 2014.

Ali said he is happy to teach again and said his students are eager to return.

"I've got into debt because of all the building work ... but I am optimistic about the future," Ali said. "I can see in the eyes of my students now that they are so determined to be good students and learn. It's like people are starting a new life."

The Iraqi government estimates that of the about 176,000 Moslawis displaced from east Mosul, about 90 percent have returned.

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