The battle for Mosul is growing fiercer every day. In the narrow streets of the city’s old quarter, tens of thousands of civilians are still trapped. Staying could mean dying, but trying to escape could mean dying too.
To get out, Mosul’s families: men, women and children, have to run a gauntlet of shells, bombs, and bullets. The International Committee of the Red Cross is supporting Mosul General Hospital, now just a few hundred metres from the fighting. Patients are flooding in.
“This week and last week most of them are children,” says ICRC physiotherapist Guido Versloot.
“A lot of children, a lot of civilian casualties that we see here. Most of them, during the flight out of Mosul they were injured, or some of them even coming back to their house that should be safe, and there were still explosives in the house. But most of them are fleeing and on the way out they get injured.”
Mosul General Hospital once treated sprained wrists, and delivered babies. Today, almost every patient has been wounded in the conflict. The injuries caused when wars are fought in densely populated cities like Mosul are terrible, as ICRC nurse Ruth Mudasisan explains.
“Most of our patients are blast patients and gun shots, but the highest number of patients are due to blast injuries.” The ICRC is calling on all parties to the conflict to do their utmost to protect civilians. The scars from a battle like the one taking place in Mosul are often, especially for the youngest, mental as well as physical.
“It’s not only the wounds, there are also a lot of psychological problems here” explains Guido Versloot. “Everyone comes here with a story, of course, especially the children,” he continues. “They want to talk a lot about it, and want to know if the parents are still there or the father or mother or brothers, so it is a lot of things around the normal work for my case as a physiotherapist."
Mosul’s children will need a lot of support. Many have lost their homes, some have lost their parents too. The ICRC is trying to support war affected children to cope with a life that has changed forever. “When you talk to the children they always cry, they say I want to go to my father, or I want to go home, and the mother says now there is no home” explains nurse Ruth Mudasisan.
“We have to be strong because we have to attend to them, and give them courage, and encourage them” she continues. “When they are here we let them feel at home, like this is just another home for them, not like they are patients, but they are part of us.”
Mosul’s children have no role in the conflict, they are not aggressors, or defenders, but simply children. It is up to all the warring parties to do everything they can to ensure that children are protected, that they remain unharmed. They are, after all, Mosul’s future.