Qayyarah emergency site grows with surge in new arrivals from Western Mosul

Military operations to fully retake Mosul are advancing further into the city’s densely-populated western neighbourhoods, triggering a sharp increase in the rate of displacement towards emergency camps and sites primarily in southern and eastern Ninewa Governorate. 

With new arrivals of civilians fleeing violence in Mosul, the Qayyarah Airstrip Emergency Site now hosts nearly 50,000 people in over 9,800 tents – making it one of the largest camps sheltering displaced Iraqis fleeing the months-long conflict.

With support from the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), the Danish Refugee Council oversees camp management in the Airstrip where vulnerable Iraqis have found access to shelter and safety. The site is positioned to grow to a maximum of 10,000 tents that can host at least 60,000 people. 

‘We were lucky’ 

Frja, 80, made the arduous journey from her home over several days before arriving at the Qayyarah Airstrip Emergency Site. She and 14 family members left their village on the outskirts of Mosul’s western neighborhoods after they found themselves caught between Islamic State (IS) fighters and Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). 

The final decision to leave came when they saw several of their neighbors and relatives killed and injured in the crossfire. With white flags in hand, they made their way out of the village towards ISF positions. Sitting outside her tent, her weathered hands and face told of a difficult life made even harder by displacement. 

“Life in the village became even more difficult after the start of fighting [outside Mosul] in October,” she said, describing the struggle she and her family faced in accessing scare food and goods. “We were lucky because we had animals and we survived on milk, yogurt, and bread that we baked at home.” 

Lacking access to the world outside their village for over four months, due to harsh restrictions on communication enacted by armed actors in the area, Frja said she and her family were shocked when security forces arrived as part of their push towards Mosul. Now in displacement, she said while the family is happy to be safe, they are concerned about relatives and neighbors left behind. 

“They’re still there and we worry about what will happen to them.” The story of Frja and her family’s flight from Mosul is just one among the more than 280,000 other people forced to flee their homes since the beginning of the Mosul operations in October 2016. 

DRC remains committed to coordinating with partner organizations in the larger humanitarian response in and around Mosul to address life-saving needs as they arise and provide immediate assistance in the form of critical relief items, access to clean drinking water, protection of civilians, and management of IDP camps in areas south of Mosul like Qayyarah and Tikrit, as well as north of Mosul in Zummar and close to Telafar where DRC continues to monitor the situation in recently retaken areas.

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