The people suffering the most in the battle for Mosul in Iraq are the poorest, Christian Aid is warning. More than 69,000 people have been forced to flee their homes since fighting started last month and the United Nations says displaced families are in severe need. Christian Aid is distributing food to those who have recently fled, and has spoken to people living in and outside of camps.
“Everyone is affected, but the poor are the most vulnerable,” said Madara Hettiarachchi, Christian Aid’s Head of Humanitarian Programmes Asia Middle East. “They are often the last to leave unstable places and will take the longest to recover. “The families we met have lost everything - homes and livelihoods - some left family members behind and many have lost loved ones.
“In the battle for Mosul some have been used as human shields, and many have lost loved ones through mortars, shelling and shrapnel. Every time an ambulance comes into a camp, they rush to see if it is family or friends. They said they have been through a lot in their lives but never been treated this badly before.”
Rob Wainwright, Christian Aid’s country manager for Iraq said: “We met people who have fled from Mosul, who report that ISIL positions such as arms depots or Sharia courts have been targets for airstrikes. “If the people in areas surrounding these sites could move, they did. But those who could not afford to move to another area, or had no relatives stay with, had no choice but to stay put. This meant they could get hit.
He added: “We were told an extended family of 17 – all of them civilians, children and elderly – were killed in this way. With fighting now on their doorstep adults and children are in the line of fire. “Many people also complained about the way militias behaved, arbitrarily detaining people on fabricated charges and then blackmailing other family members for a bribe to get them released.”
Mr Wainwright added: “Many Bedouin communities we spoke to from the outskirts of the city had lost hundreds of sheep to militias who looted their property once they left their homes. “After losing their income and with homes destroyed in the fighting, all they can do is wait for the fighting to end and face an uncertain future. In the confusion and chaos of this conflict, one thing is painfully clear. The poor suffer the most.”
With some camps reaching full capacity and freezing winter temperatures arriving in northern Iraq, Christian Aid echoes other agencies’ concern about lack of funding to help the hundreds of thousands expected to eventually leave the city, saying many face a harsh winter. Frances Guy, Christian Aids Head of Middle East, said:
“The international community needs to step up and provide the necessary funding to help prevent another humanitarian catastrophe. We should also remember those who have been displaced for over two years. They still need support too. We reiterate the call for all sides to the fighting to ensure that the protection of civilians is guaranteed and respect international law to allow immediate safe passage for those trapped in the city and seeking to flee.”
Christian Aid partners have been there since the start of the crisis, distributing food to people who have recently fled Mosul for the south of the city. Christian Aid has been working in Iraq for over 20 years, and continues to support those who have fled since 2014, with food, cash-for-work and projects to help people earn a living.