Battle for Mosul: Humanitarian crisis deepens as displacement peaks in Islamic State stronghold

Hammam Al-Alil: The fighting in west Mosul in Iraq has forced up to 15,000 people to flee their homes every day recently, straining humanitarian resources and leaving many in very difficult conditions.

At the Hammam al-Alil camp for the displaced south of Mosul, hundreds of haggard-looking civilians spill out of buses escorted by the security forces all day long.

The camp is a screening site and a gateway for some who will then board other buses and taxis to look for accommodation in other camps or with relatives in "liberated" east Mosul and neighbouring areas.

A file image of refugees in Mosul, Iraq. Reuters

A file image of refugees in Mosul, Iraq. Reuters

But others, often among the most needy, stay at the camp and move into tents with relatives or neighbours, sometimes three or four families crammed into the same 10 metre by 4 metre tent.

"There are four families in this tent, about 30 people sleep in it," said Marwan Nayef, a 25-year-old from west Mosul, as a dozen children stood around him or peeped from behind the tent's tarpaulin door.

"Sometimes, it's not big enough so the men go to sleep in a friend's tent. I'm currently sleeping in my brother's tent," he said.

A few alleys down in the camp, whose population has soared to around 30,000, Shahra Hazem holds her 16-month-old hydrocephalic son in her arms.

"He needs an operation, there's water in his head, but there is just no help available. I tried to take him to another camp but they wouldn't let us in," she said.

According to the United Nations, at least 400,000 people have been displaced since the Iraqi security forces launched a huge offensive against the Islamic State (IS) group's Mosul stronghold on October 17.

The majority of those who had to flee their homes did so during the most recent phase of the operation, which started on February 19 in the half of the city that lies west of the Tigris river.

In Hammam al-Alil camp, massive queues of civilians form at midday to receive a helping of rice and sauce from a catering tent, many of them barefooted children who then sit on the gravel to devour their ration.

Some fetch food from outside the camp, others from an informal market that opened on the other side of the fence.

One boy was reselling mats his family received in UN emergency kits to buy cheap chocolate-flavoured wafers from the market.

A woman carrying her daughter ran into neighbours from Mosul and told them of how she and her family survived an airstrike that demolished their house.

"IS set up a machine gun position in front of our door so the security forces fired back... Luckily, we were all on the ground floor," said the woman, wearing a bright green dress.

"Some of our neighbours tried to flee yesterday and the security forces shot at them because they thought they were with IS. This is happening a lot," she said.

Updated Date: Apr 06, 2017 18:43 PM

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