Aid agencies braced for new waves of displacement in Mosul conflict

With a new phase in the Mosul offensive poised to begin, Iraq’s Humanitarian Co-ordinator, Lise Grande, toured UNHCR’s Hasansham U3 displacement camp and the government-built Khazer M1 camp, east of Mosul, where UNHCR has also provided support and distributed emergency items. 

More than 82,000 people have been provided with shelter and emergency items in UNHCR-supported camps to the east of Mosul since the start of the offensive in October. 

Humanitarian agencies, working with the Iraqi government, are preparing for a new outflow of civilians from western Mosul.Construction work is beginning at a new site south of Mosul to provide additional shelters. 

Only a small number of families from densely-populated western Mosul have managed to escape and are staying in displacement camps, including Hasansham and Khazer. UNHCR has completed seven camps, including Hasansham U3, and two more are under construction. 

The agency is currently able to provide some 11,000 families (66,000 people) with shelter as part of the Mosul response, a figure which should expand to 20,000 families (120,000 individuals) in the near-term once land is allocated. 

By the end of March, it is anticipated that the Government of Iraq and humanitarian partners would have built camps and emergency sites to potentially host 41,155 families (246,930 people) in camps and emergency sites. 

“We anticipate the next phase in the battle for Mosul will be an even bigger test for the humanitarian community”, said UNHCR’s Representative in Iraq, Bruno Geddo, who was visiting the displacement camps along with Iraq’s Humanitarian Co-ordinator. “We are preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best.” 

Some 153,894 people remain displaced, having fled from Mosul and surrounding areas since October 17. At the same time, more than 46,000 people from Mosul and surrounding areas have returned to their places of origin, eager to return home and rebuild their lives. 

However, some returnee families also have gone back to the camps due to insecurity and a lack of basic services in their areas of origin. 

Ms. Grande stressed that returns should be safe, dignified and voluntary. “You cannot force people to go home. People have to make that choice on their own. They have the right to decide”, she said.

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