Sunday, February 19, 2017

UN warns of humanitarian crisis in Mosul as military action looms

The UN aid agencies on Saturday warned that tens of thousands of civilians in Iraq's Mosul are at "extreme risk" with battles to drive out the Islamic State (IS) terrorists from the western side of the city could break out soon.

"Recent surveys with key informants confirm that food and fuel supplies are dwindling, markets and shops have closed, running water is scarce and electricity in many neighborhoods is either intermittent or cut off," the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement posted on its website.

"The situation is distressing. People, right now, are in trouble. We are hearing reports of parents struggling to feed their children and to heat their homes," said the statement by OCHA's humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande. "The battle hasn't started but already there is a humanitarian crisis."

  • The statement said that few commercial supplies have reached to the besieged part of the city during the past three months after the main road to Syria was cut-off, threatening the lives of between 750,000 and 800,000 civilians living in Mosul's western bank of the Tigris River. 

"Informants report that nearly half of all food shops have closed. Bakeries throughout the area have run out of fuel and many can no longer afford to purchase costly flour. Prices of kerosene and cooking gas have skyrocketed and many of the most destitute families are burning wood, furniture, plastic or garbage for cooking and heating," Grande said.

"Children and their families are starting to face critical shortages of safe drinking water," the statement quoted Peter Hawkins, UN Children's Fund representative in Iraq as saying. "Three out of five people now depend on untreated water from wells for cooking and drinking as water systems and treatment plants have been damaged by fighting or run out of chlorine."

  • Sally Haydock, Representative of the World Food Program in Iraq, said that "food prices in western Mosul are almost double than in eastern Mosul," according to the statement. 

"We are extremely concerned that many families do not have enough to eat in western Mosul," he said.

The humanitarian aid agencies are rushing to construct emergency sites in south of Mosul and "stocks of life-saving supplies are being pre-positioned for the 250,000-400,000 civilians who may flee," the statement said.

"We don't know what will happen during the military campaign but we have to be ready for all scenarios. Tens of thousands of people may flee or be forced to leave the city. Hundreds of thousands of civilians might be trapped, maybe for weeks, maybe for months," Grande said.

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