More than half a million children are at extreme risk in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city.
As the campaign to retake the city continues, children and families who’ve already endured two years of hardship and fear are now being forced to flee or are trapped between the fighting lines. UNICEF is working around the clock to support children fleeing Mosul as well as those who have stayed in the city or are living in newly-retaken areas. Read on and check back regularly for rolling updates.
Monday, April 2 — Fear for Those Left Behind
The family of twelve asks not to be shown or named. Newly arrived from west Mosul, they fear for the lives of their loved ones still left in the city.
A mix of middle aged men and women, one of whom holds a baby, and a young girl usher us into one of the tents the family occupies in Haj Ali camp. We speak to the little girl, Mona*, who is staying with her aunts and uncles — her parents are still in Mosul trying to hold onto the family’s property.
“I miss going to school, but a lot of my friends are also here now. That’s good because I like playing hide and seek with them. My parents aren’t here though.”
At this point the tears start — this small girl seems very alone despite being surrounded by family.
One aunt speaks while another gathers Mona into a hug, and talks about life in Mosul under ISIL
“We didn’t go out much. When we did leave the house, it was mostly at night. Of course, we were fully covered. I went downtown once and didn’t put a niqab (face veil) on. ISIL soldiers shouted at me, and when they saw I wasn’t wearing gloves they broke both of my hands.
“We knew a woman who went out with her child. The kid was really young, and being a kid, he grabbed her niqab so it slipped off her head. ISIL soldiers saw her uncovered face and dragged her out of the car. Then they beat her until she was unconscious.
“She was taken to a hospital, but it was only available to ISIL and their families.” She survived.
While the aunts commiserate about their unfortunate friend, one of Mona’s uncles tells us about how even their home did not offer protection from ISIL.
“[ISIL] built lots of tunnels. There was one under our house. They made us leave periodically so they could move things in and out. We also weren’t allowed to close the outer gates in front of our houses. They killed families if the gates were closed and locked.
“The ISIL soldiers in our neighborhood were mostly foreigners. There were other people from Mosul who supported them though — sometimes people would shoot their neighbors if they didn’t join ISIL. So the men stayed in the house — the women had to cover completely and go out to the market for food.
“Our father was getting a government pension, and there was one office in Mosul where we could collect it. Once a month, one of us would go to the office at 7am, and would leave around 4 or 5pm. There were so many people there trying to get their money.
“For now, we will stay here, but we need to find a way to make money to support ourselves. But honestly, after ISIL, all of our problems seem small. Once they’re gone, we’ll go back home.”
*Name changed for privacy
Sunday, March 12 —Abou Mohammed’s neighbourhood of family
Two UNICEF staff visited the family, displaced from their homes in Mosul only two days before, in Haj Ali Emergency Site.
Abou Mohammed sits in his tent like a good natured king among his extensive family. Surrounded by a mix of children and grandchildren, he smiles and tells us, “We brought 3 full football teams us.”
With two wives and 34 children plus their families, it took a small truck to transport Abou Mohammed’s family to the Haj Ali emergency site from west Mosul. They now form their own small neighborhood, occupying six tents in one corner of the site. “My oldest is just about to get married. My youngest is 2.”
He gestures to one of his older daughters, whose husband was killed by ISIL. She has two children — a baby girl and young boy. “Her husband never saw the baby. He was killed before she was born.”
Abou Mohammed beckons his grandson to him. Instead of running over, the little boy uses his hands to propel himself to his grandfather, his legs crossed and tucked up tightly under his body. His feet hang uselessly.
“He had a lot of water on his brain. It was really hard to get in the operation where they drained all the liquid off. He needs another operation, but it seems unlikely that will happen any time soon,” Abou Mohammed explains.
While he’s speaking, more and more of the family are gathering. Children surround me, wanting to see the photos that I’ve taken of them and watching curiously as I write in English. Many others remain seated by their grandfather.
His wives enter the tent and join the conversation. In contrast to their jovial husband, the women’s faces show the strain of trying to settle the family in the emergency site and adjust from having two big houses for the family to running the household from tents.“When we were getting set up here in the camp, I asked for six tents and another wife,” Abou Mohammed laughs.
Friday, March 3 — A displaced boy and his goldfish amid crowds of children arriving from West Mosul
More than 15,000 children have left West Mosul in the past week, many of them passing through Hamam al Alil camp located south of the city.
Newly displaced people are arriving from west Mosul in vans and buses run by the Iraqi army, while other families bundle out of their tents, suitcases in hand, ready to return to their homes in East Mosul.
None of the people we speak to have a happy story, and very few people agree to have their photos taken — they fear for the safety of relatives still inside Mosul, and for themselves.
But one man introduces us his two young sons (left), round cheeked but unsmiling. He had a daughter, he said, but she was killed in a bomb strike. He speaks very matter-of factly.
Another group of families, just arrived from the Hei Tayaran neighborhood of West Mosul, are waiting for the men to pass through the screening center. All men and older boys are checked by the security forces for ISIL affiliations.
The women have a lot to say, each of them talking over the other, finally able to speak freely about the ordeal that was their life over the past two and a half years and their journey out of the city.
The matriarch, her face and hands covered in faded blue tribal tattoos, describes their escape:
“The bombing and shelling became unbearable, in addition to the fact that we have had a very difficult time buying food in the past month.
We walked for about an hour this morning, until the army vehicles met us. The army gave us lots of assistance, even the shirts off their backs. We spent about half an hour on the bus, and we’ve just arrived.”
The children are visibly upset. The younger children would become agitated when they heard the shelling, their mothers said. One of the older boys, Mohammed, 11 years old, said he just felt relieved to finally be safe in Hamam al Alil.
Just inside the gates of the camp, an entrepreneurial man with a generator has set up a make-shift barber shop/mobile phone charging station, forming an impromptu communal space. Newly arrived men are having their ISIL-imposed beards shaved off. “Take our picture once we’re cleaned up!” they say to me. Other people are squatting, charging their phones so they can tell family they’ve escaped safely. Or to tell families they are coming home soon.
Long lines stretch along the fence as new arrivals wait to receive water, food and hygiene kits — part of the rapid response mechanism in which UNICEF participates with other partner agencies.
Outside the camp perimeter fence, a line of vendors with ply their wares — the colors of the fruit and vegetable surprisingly vibrant against the dull gray sky, white tents and brown mud.
A family composed mostly of women and children are waiting outside the fence to return to their home in Hei Philistine in east Mosul. One of the girls, Marwa (left), gives us a big smile and shows off her bright yellow coat, though we struggle to hear her over the endless growl of tractors and trucks coming in and out of the camp.
Her older brother protectively holds a plastic jar that contains two goldfish.
During the fighting, the family was forced by ISIL to move from their home on the eastern side of the city to a neighborhood in west Mosul called Hei Tayaran, close to the airport.
Iraqi forces retook the neighborhood in the past few days, and the family fled to Hamam al-Alil. After a short time in the camp, they decided to try and return home. With their goldfish.
Thursday, March 2 — Food brings people together
The community of Hamam al Aleel was hit hard by aerial strikes. In some areas, there is nothing but rubble left to indicate that buildings once stood there. Forests of twisted rebar and endless piles of debris are guarded by large dogs that have claimed areas that families left behind.
Though locals have had their own share of troubles, some have taken it on themselves to lend a hand to the displaced people arriving in the camp just outside of town. It is a foreboding place, bordered by bombed out shells of buildings.
10 year old Khaled is visiting the camp to do his own, informal “needs assessment”:
“Yesterday, my family and five other households made bread for people in the camp. 500 loaves of bread, and we brought them here to the camp for people. One household brought the gas, another some of the ingredients. My family and I helped make it, and my dad and brothers brought it here to give away. I’m just here today to kind of see how everything’s going.”
Tuesday, January 24 — Humanitarians fear for the 750,000 civilians in western Mosul
100 days after military operations to retake Mosul started, humanitarian partners are expressing deep concern about the plight of the estimated 750,000 civilians who are currently living in the western sections of the city where fighting is expected to start in coming weeks.
Read the full joint press release:
Monday, January 23 — Latest Mosul Response Update
Our latest update about the situation of children in and around Mosul and our work to assist them:
Sunday, January 22 — Schools reopen in East Mosul as violence subsides
As fighting subsides in East Mosul, 30 schools reopened on Sunday with help from UNICEF, allowing over 16,000 children to resume their education.
Some schools in the area were closed for up to two years, and girls were largely banned from getting an education.
“Just a few weeks ago, these neighborhoods were gripped by violence. Today, girls and boys are heading back to class,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Iraq. “After the nightmare of the past two years, this is a pivotal moment for the children of Mosul to reclaim their education and their hope for a better future.”
An additional 40 schools are expected to open in the coming weeks after being checked for unexplored ordinance by local authorities to accommodate a total of 40,000 students.
UNICEF is supporting Iraqi authorities to rehabilitate, equip and open more schools as the security situation allows. Many have been used for military purposes or badly damaged by the recent fighting. Assistance from UNICEF includes:
- Provision of water and sanitation services in schools
- Retraining for teachers and educators
- Introducing accelerated learning programmes for children
- Awareness campaigns against violence
- Prepositioning school supplies for 120,000 students in East Mosul
UNICEF and education partners are also supporting 13,200 newly-displaced children living in camps outside Mosul with access to education in mathematics, science, Arabic and English through temporary learning spaces.
Thursday, January 19 — Ensuring a healthy start for babies born in displacement camps
Nurses who fled conflict in Mosul help ensure that babies born in Debaga camp get a healthy start to life.
A generous contribution from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) helps UNICEF to support these nurses, and similar initiatives in other camps in Iraq.
Monday, January 16 — Rebuilding Young Lives
A UNICEF-supported youth centre is helping children recover after witnessing unspeakable violence.
With support from the German Bank for Reconstruction (KfW), UNICEF partner Terre des Hommes run the centre, where 25 displaced boys live and another 45 from the camp visit daily. More than 300 boys have received assistance since the centre’s opening in the summer of 2016.
In 2017 UNICEF aims to provide more than 160,000 children with structured and sustained resilience or psychosocial support programmes and 14,000 children with specialized child protection services.
Wednesday, January 11 — UNICEF increases water trucking in Mosul
UNICEF is increasing its efforts to get water to families in eastern Mosul as well as to several displacement camps south of the city.
“After a short break in service due to security issues, water trucking has resumed to eastern Mosul,” says UNICEF Iraq’s Chief of Erbil Field Office Maulid Warfa. “This is a key first line response, because many families in eastern Mosul don’t have any other source of safe water.”
Thirty five water tanks with an average 15,000 litre capacity are making two trips daily to newly retaken areas of the city providing safe water to around 100,000 people. To increase the water storage capacity UNICEF has installed 50 water tanks of 5,000 litre capacity at strategic locations inside Mosul.
Nine hundred and fifty thousand litres of water were trucked to Mosul on Saturday last week and UNICEF aims to reach the target of 1,500,000 litres per day, benefitting over 100,000 people, half of them children.
Nine boreholes have been activated and UNICEF is renovating pumping stations and water networks.
Water trucking is also a critical element of UNICEF’s response in displacement camps south east of the city — there are more than 100,000 people in camps in Hasansham and Qayyarah who are receiving 3,500 cubic metres of water per day — at least 35 litres per person.
“We are also working with the Directorate of Water and the Ninewa Governorate to repair the water network inside eastern Mosul,” Mr Warfa said.
UNICEF’s water and sanitation response in Mosul is supported by generous contributions from European Union’s Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), the Office for U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID).
Monday, January 9 — “I’m comfortable now that I’m back to learning and studying”
Despite tough living conditions, kids who escaped Mosul are happy to be free
A refugee camp just east of Mosul was supposed to be a temporary haven for those fleeing life under the Islamic State…
PBS Special correspondent Marcia Biggs spoke with children from Mosul in a camp in Ninewa. They’re happy to be safely away from the conflict, and finally free to play and learn. She spoke to Dima, 6, who had recently arrived in the camp. Dima explained that she’s happy “because there’s no bombing here.”
When asked what she wanted to do now, Dima said simply “I want to play.”
UNICEF provides safe spaces for children to play and learn in camps for families who’ve fled Mosul. Watch the video in the link above for scenes from one of these spaces.
Tuesday, January 03 — Over 13,000 people flee Mosul over five days
More than 13,000 people — including about 6,500 children — have fled Mosul in just five days since 29 December, after the launch of the second phase of military operations to retake Mosul.
“The average daily displacement numbers have increased by nearly 50 per cent since military operations intensified, some 1,600 to more than 2,300 displaced per day,” said UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric at the regular Headquarters news briefing.
Read more: http://bit.ly/2iH6sgH
Tuesday, December 26 — “School has become a second home to us”
Mohammed found safety in a camp in northern Iraq, and “a second home” at the UNICEF-supported school.
Wednesday, December 21 — Creative solutions restore critical water services
UNICEF’s Chief of Water and Sanitation Ruben Um Bayiha talks about the challenges of providing safe water and sanitation services to those in camps and those still in Mosul.
Tuesday, December 20 — Lastest Mosul Flash Update
Our latest update about the situation of children in and around Mosul and our work to assist them:
Monday, December 19 — Keeping children from Mosul warm for winter
As temperatures drop across Iraq UNICEF is working around the clock to provide 300,000 vulnerable children with clothing to protect them from the cold. This winter, with the support of UNITED States Fund for UNICEF, we are making special efforts to reach children fleeing conflict in the Mosul corridor.
In the past week two distributions took place reaching 2,253 children who fled Mosul and took shelter in a mosque in the recently-retaken village of Fadhiliya.
In the coming days UNICEF will launch an innovative e-voucher system in three camps which will enable 10,000 displaced families to buy winter clothes for 35,000 children.
Read more about UNICEF Iraq’s winterization campaign:
Sunday, December 18 — Vaccination campaign launched to protect Iraq’s most vulnerable children
The Federal Ministry of Health in coordination with the Kurdistan Region Ministry of Health and with the support of UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) today launched a 12-day campaign to immunize Iraq’s children against polio and measles.
The winter campaign aims to reach some 800,000 children under the age of five living in Iraq’s most vulnerable governorates of Anbar, Salahaddin, Kirkuk, newly retaken areas in Ninewah, and displaced children living in camps in the Kurdistan region.
Saturday, December 17– 50,000 children uprooted
More than 100,000 people have been displaced from Mosul in the last eight weeks — including almost 50,000 children.
Tuesday, December 13 — Back to school in Qayyara Jada’ah camp
Huge smiles lit the faces of the Iraqi children lining up outside the newly opened UNICEF-supported tent school in Qayyara Jada’ah camp. Many of the children in the camp hadn’t seen a classroom in two years.
UNICEF supports the school with a generous contribution from the US Department of State: Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM)
Monday, December 12 — “I know I can’t rebuild the houses of these children. But what I can do is… help remind them that life goes on.”
Linda works at a UNICEF-supported child-friendly space in a camp in northern Iraq. She helps children who’ve fled conflict in Mosul recover, play, and just be children again.
Thursday, December 8 — UN provides vital food and aid to 42,000 people in eastern Mosul
On December 8, 2016, in the single largest humanitarian aid delivery in eastern Mosul since the current conflict began, the World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) provided food, dignity kits, water purification tablets, jerry cans, baby hygiene kits and more for 42,000 people in eastern Mosul. For the first time in over two weeks, security conditions have allowed humanitarian agencies to reach families living in the suburbs of eastern Mosul, many of whom are in desperate need of assistance.
As part of the interagency operation, WFP provided ready-to-eat food rations to meet the immediate food needs for six days for people living in eastern Mosul and UNFPA provided dignity kits for women. With generous contributions from the US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO), UNICEF delivered one month’s supply of water purification tablets, high energy biscuits, jerry cans, baby hygiene kits and leaflets with information on child protection and basic mine awareness. The distribution took eight hours to safely gather families and provide them with food and humanitarian supplies.
“Access and security are the biggest concerns facing the entire humanitarian community trying to assist families affected by the conflict,” said Sally Haydock, Country Director and WFP Representative in Iraq. “WFP knows food is running out inside Mosul, and being able to assist so many families in need in eastern Mosul is a great relief.”
“I saw thousands of happy welcoming children today, it was a very large and important distribution which allowed us to reach more than 21,000 children in eastern Mosul,” said Bastien Vigneau, UNICEF’s Regional Emergency Advisor who coordinated the aid delivery. “Next, we need to focus on delivering longer-term services to these areas to restore acceptable living conditions for children there.”
“UNFPA is working around the clock to provide immediate relief to women and girls affected by the current conflict whenever security allows,” said Nestor Owomuhangi, UNFPA Deputy Representative. “The dignity kits that we have managed to distribute today to over 9,000 women and girls include feminine hygiene products, basic clothing like a dress and head cover. They offer more than the basic requirements as they allow women to take care of their well being and enable them to gain confidence to get out of their tents or houses to seek other available services.”
Tuesday December 6 — “It’s good to be home.”
“This is my first work in two years,” Abdulrahman says. “I’m very happy.”
The day is sunny but cold — a sharp wind whips across the Ninewa plain. However Abdulraman wears a broad smile as he stands in Qayyarah Airstrip camp.
The former police officer is now a day labourer and he’s waiting with his team for a concrete delivery. The men have strapped pieces of tarpaulin to their feet to keep their shoes clean and dry as they build a water drainage system.
Qayyarah Airstrip camp is under construction and will be developed in stages. It’s expected to have 5,000 tents ready for occupation by the end of this month and 11,300 tents by the end of January.
At its completion the camp will have 16,000 tents to accomodate children and families fleeing Mosul.
UNICEF has built water and sanitation facilities for 1,200 tent sites and has begun work constructing 1,200 more.
The camp represents not just a sanctuary for those fleeing conflict in Mosul, but an economic opportunity for local residents who have suffered for two years without income.
Digging holes and laying concrete is hard work but Abdulraman doesn’t mind.
More than two months ago the family was displaced by conflict to Debaga camp, just south of Erbil and were there for a little over a month. “We came back when we found out that our village had been retaken,” Abdulraman says.
When he got home he discovered his house had been looted and nothing remained of his possessions. “All our belongings had been stolen; they took everything.”
Fortunately, he has had the opportunity to once more support his family, building the infrastructure for the camp, which is a short distance from his village.
“It’s good to be home,” he says.
Sunday, December 4 — I asked that little boy in the camp how it felt to be back at school. “The happiest,” he said.
Driven Out of School, the Kids Of Mosul Want To Go Back
The Hassan Sham camp, a sprawling refuge for displaced people east of Mosul, is growing by the day as people flee…
“Even if it is a tented school, knowing that every day they can go there, that it’s a safe space where they can meet other children, they can go back to some learning practices, it’s of critical importance.”
A piece from NPR about the importance of school for children displaced by conflict in Mosul.
Wednesday, November 30 — Almost half of Mosul’s children cut off from clean water as fighting intensifies
Nearly 300,000 children in Mosul — almost half of all the children in the city — and their families have reportedly been cut off from access to clean water after a major water pipeline was destroyed amid the ongoing conflict.
Tuesday, November 29 — Latest Mosul Response Flash Update
Our latest update about the situation of children in and around Mosul and our work to assist them:
Tuesday, November 29 — Vital aid reaches Nimrud
UNICEF and partners the World Food Programme and the United Nations Population Fund have delivered food, hygiene, and household supplies to the ancient town of Namrud. Both the town and its priceless archaeological relics, are in ruins.
Sunday, November 27 — “They have the right to go to school and the right to learn”
Fadia teaches children who fled Mosul at a UNICEF-supported Temporary Learning Space in Hassan Sham Camp. She and her daughter were displaced by violence in Iraq in 2014, so she understands how important it is for children who’ve been uprooted to make friends, establish a routine, and regain a sense of normalcy through education.
“The reason I came to teach the children here at the camp is because for two-and-a-half years, they have been without education, toys, or ways to express their feelings”
With a generous contribution from the U.S Department of State: Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), the space provides more than 1,000 girls and boys in the camp with a safe place to play and learn.
As part of our Mosul response, UNICEF supports ten temporary learning spaces in six camps hosting displaced children from Mosul and surrounding areas.
Thursday, November 24 — “Medicine is expensive, and we have no jobs so we can’t afford it”
“Mosul is destroyed. Weapons are everywhere, death is everywhere. Medicine is expensive, and we have no jobs so we can’t afford it,” said Umm Ikhlas Salih, holding her three month old baby close to her chest to shelter him from the biting cold.
The family of five recently arrived at Hasansham, a camp for newly displaced people that is only 39km away from Mosul, where a fierce battle to retake the city rages on.
“We walked for five hours, fearing for our lives the whole way until we reached a safe place where the Iraqi army was stationed. We heard that Da’esh [ISIL] is wearing the uniform of Iraqi soldiers to confuse and capture people who are fleeing Mosul. I was terrified as we approached the soldiers, but Alhamdulillah, thank god, they spoke with a Baghdad accent and I knew we were safe.”
According to Umm Iklhas, access to health services in Mosul was severely limited, and her son, like many other children coming from Mosul, did not receive routine vaccinations normally provided to infants and young children. The lack of vaccinations leaves these children vulnerable to highly contagious viral infections like measles that kills more children than any other vaccine-preventable disease.
UNICEF-supported mobile health teams are working around the clock to change that. Going camp-to-camp, they are vaccinating all children up to the age of 15 against polio and measles.
“We thank God for this. Everything is good,” said Umm Ikhlas, walking away to take her place in the crowd of parents waiting for their children to be vaccinated.
UNICEF supports mobile health teams vaccinating children from in and around Mosul with a generous donation from the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO).
Wednesday, November 23 — A young man from Mosul spreads hope through rap
More than 68,000 people — including 34,000 children — have fled Mosul since the operation to re-take the city began on October 17.
Tens of thousands more Iraqis fled the city in mid-2014. Children who were displaced almost two and a half years ago have spent much of their young lives in limbo, uprooted and facing an uncertain future.
Seventeen year-old Laith, who has lived in a camp in Erbil since fleeing Mosul in 2014, raps to help process his experiences and to speak out for his friends and peers in Iraq and the region.
Monday, November 21 — Children in Hammam Alil recieve vital aid
“I gave the little girl a chocolate bar. She didn’t say anything; she seemed surprised by the kindness, but she’s been living under ISIL for two years.”
When UNICEF Emergency Co-ordinator Atheer Al-Yaseen delivers emergency supplies to displaced families, he brings along something extra; a personal gift from his own children to the children he works with.
“I always have candy on my missions; when they know I’m going, my children put it in my bag and they ask me to give it to the children I meet,” he says.
Last week UNICEF distributed supplies to the newly retaken town of Hammam Alil, south of Mosul.
The distribution consisted of 2,500 emergency kits from UNICEF, the World Food Programme and the United Nations Population Fund — enough for 18,000 people for one month.
As with an aid delivery earlier in the week to eastern Mosul, the situation was tense.
“The town has been retaken, but we were very close to the front lines and we could hear bombing,” said UNICEF Regional Emergency Co-ordinator Bastien Vigneau.
Working quickly, the team distributed food, water, hygiene and household supplies as well as high energy biscuits.
The town has about 10,000 permanent residents, and up to 8,000 people who’ve been displaced from other villages south of Mosul. Conflict has disrupted schooling, medical services and the water supply. Children have not been vaccinated, and the threat of cholera is real.
The aid convoy was greeted warmly by the townsfolk, who lined up patiently and staggered off, boxes piled high, happy to have their most urgent needs met, and to have after two years, contact with the outside world.
“It’s not just about supplies,” Mr Al-Yaseen said. “And it’s not just about a chocolate bar. Our being there sends a message that we support them. Even in our team, the people delivering the aid are Kurds, Arabs and internationals. It shows people that we care about them, no matter what our backgrounds. I think it’s really important that they know that.”
Thursday, November 1 7— Second Mosul Response Flash Update
Since the start of operations on 17 October, UNICEF has reached 105,983 people — half of them children — affected by Mosul operations with life-saving response items through the Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM), plus an additional 54,000 people in retaken communities.
Read the details of our response, and our findings about the situation of children in and around Mosul, in our second Flash Update:
Monday, 14 November — Bringing aid, and hope, to children in Eastern Mosul
UNICEF Iraq Communications Specialist Chris Niles met some of the children who received supplies from the UNICEF-led convoy to Eastern Mosul city yesterday (November 13):
I was talking to 10-year-old Maryam when a rocket exploded to our left. It was a way off, but it was loud and I jumped.
“When a bomb goes off she doesn’t react,” her brother Mohammed said. “It doesn’t affect her, it doesn’t affect any of us; we’re used to it.”
The smiling girl with long brown hair and bright eyes was seated on Mohammed’s bicycle, parked on the sidewalk. She was enjoying the novelty of the sight before her: eight 18-wheeler trucks lined up on one of the main roads into Mosul.
The interagency convoy was the first of its kind to reach Eastern Mosul. UNICEF worked with the World Food Programme and the United Nations Population Fund to bring basic supplies: water purification tablets, food, soap, toothpaste, diapers for babies, hygiene products for women and high-energy biscuits for children. Each agency supplied 5,000 kits, enough to last 30,000 people for one month.
The trucks arrived at 9:30 am and workers quickly began the task of loading them into smaller trucks for distribution around the newly retaken areas of the city.
It was a sunny day with a hazy sky, made hazier by an oil fire to the west, which had been lit that morning. It started as a wispy grey cloud and by midday had grown into a smeared charcoal stain on the horizon.
Two helicopters hovered overhead, ensuring the convoy’s safety. Higher still, jet fighters left looping contrails in the pale sky. Behind the front line, a few hundred metres away, bombs thudded and automatic weapons stuttered.
Some girls and boys shyly made their way to the convoy. They wanted to meet their visitors and to see one of the first tangible signs of care from the outside world. “These children have been deprived of so many basic things for the past two years I could feel that just being there and distributing the emergency supplies was bringing them a sense of hope and a much awaited return to normal life,” said Regional Emergency Co-ordinator Bastien Vigneau as he and Emergency Specialist Atheer Al-Yaseen directed the huge operation that took about six hours.
Mostly the children stood back as their elder relatives spoke for them. They all had a version of the same heartbreaking story — they hadn’t been in school for two years; they’d been injured in bombing raids; they needed everything.
Seven-year-old Ahmed came with his mother in search of food. His mother lifted up his track suit pants to show me the scars on his skinny legs from an aerial bombardment. Ahmed smiled shyly and allowed me to shake his hand. The family left with high-energy biscuits.
A group of young men who had been students at the University of Mosul told me that in the last two years life in the city had stopped. There was no work, no studying. “We buried our cell phones in the ground,” Riad said, bringing out his phone and patting it protectively. “If we’d been found with them, we’d have been decapitated.”
The convoy was parked on one of the main routes out of town, so all day, as the unloading continued, families passed by; the lucky ones crammed into dilapidated cars with sagging tyres, the less fortunate on foot. Children staggered under heavy backpacks. Others pushed strollers laden with belongings.
One father, who declined to be named, was leaving with his 20-member family, including two elderly parents in wheelchairs. “We endured eight days of shelling before we decided to leave; we were too frightened to step outside,” he said. “Thank God we left the house when we did. It was bombed soon afterwards.”
He didn’t know how he’d make it to his destination but it was likely he’d rely on the kindness of strangers.
And small acts of kindness were evident: when two women walked by the convoy, and it was clear that they didn’t have proper shoes for their journey, one young man working with our partner, Muslim Aid, took off his sneakers and offered them. The women politely declined, so he put his shoes back on.
The bombing got closer as the afternoon went on. Two bombs went off; to our left and then to our right. Our security officer advised me to stay close to the car in case we needed to evacuate. The Apache helicopters continued high above. So did the jets.
Maryam remained oblivious to the noise as she collected a baby kit, a hygiene kit and high-energy biscuits — vital supplies for her family.
“We need this,” Mohammed said as he strapped the boxes to the carrier rack on his bike. “This is important for us.”
Maryam didn’t seem in a hurry to leave, so I asked her whether she could ride a bicycle. She said she could, but she didn’t have one.
“Maybe one day,” her brother said.
Sunday, 13 November — UNICEF leads convoy into Eastern Mosul city with emergency supplies for 15,000 children
A UNICEF-led multi-agency humanitarian convoy was on Sunday the first to enter the Iraqi city of Mosul together with WFP and UNFPA.
“UNICEF has entered Mosul city for the first time in over two years,” said UNICEF Iraq Deputy Representative Hamida Ramadhani.
“Our teams are moving quickly to provide immediate support to communities affected by the fighting.”
A 14-vehicle convoy including eight cargo trucks filled with aid, arrived in eastern Mosul at around 9.30 in the morning.
The trucks were filled with enough emergency supplies to last 15,000 children and their families — a total of 30,000 people — for a month.
Supplies included 5,000 kits of water purification tablets, high energy biscuits, jerry cans, buckets, hygiene items such as soap, toothpaste and baby supplies, including diapers.
The distribution was completed in six hours despite nearby artillery fire and explosions that sounded almost constantly during the day.
More than 27,000 children and their families, totalling 56,000 people have been displaced to date from in and around Mosul since October 17 — and up to 1.5 million remain trapped inside the city, 600,000 of them children.
UNICEF has reached more than 30,000 children with needed assistance in re-taken communities including in eastern Mosul City since 17 October.
Saturday, 12 November — Meeting needs for displaced children outside of camps
“We visited the informal settlement of Qadisiya in Tikrit and the children were really happy to see us back again,” says UNICEF Regional Emergency Coordinator Bastien Vigneau.
“In Qadisiya, we are providing safe drinking water and have installed sanitation facilities. We are also running a child friendly programme to give children a safe space to learn and play.”
“Thousands of displaced people are sheltering in schools in this area. We can’t move them yet because winter is coming and they need shelter. But we are building a tented school. The foundations are almost finished and children will attend their first class this November. Having a school will help give these children a sense of normalcy.”
Thursday, November 10— Education a top priority
"We can't go home, so we need to send our children to school." - UNICEF Connect
The village of Hasansham, which until a few months ago was the scene of heavy fighting, has a surreal quality. It's…
Bushra has been in Khazir Camp for less than a week with her five young sons. She walked for seven hours to get to the camp and she needs everything. But when we asked Bushra and those around her what their main concern was for their children, they responded in unison, and without hesitation — “education.”
Read more in the link above.
Wednesday, November 9 — Walk through a reception centre
UNICEF Representative in Iraq Peter Hawkins explains how UNICEF provides support at reception centres to families who have fled Mosul.
Tuesday, November 8 — Displaced children from Mosul in need of psychological support
As Iraqi forces enter Mosul city in their final campaign to retake the city, UNICEF calls on all parties to the conflict to protect the hundreds of thousands of children trapped in the city.
“Children are too often the innocent victims of war,” said UNICEF Representative in Iraq Peter Hawkins. “The children in Mosul have already been exposed to horrific levels of brutality and violence. They should not be made to suffer any more.”
In October alone, 11 children were reported killed during airstrikes, crossfire, by rockets and/or in extra-judicial executions. Due to the challenges of data collection actual numbers of child rights violations may be significantly higher.
“We are aware of unverified reports from various media sources of killings, torture and other mistreatment of boys and men. If true, these acts may amount to war crimes,” said UNICEF Iraq Chief of Child Protection Brigid Kennedy Pfister.
“These reports are examples of the extreme level of brutality to which the children of Iraq have been exposed and the conditions under which they have been forced to live. Children should at all times be treated humanely, no matter the circumstances,” Kennedy Pfister said.
Newly arrived families in one camp (Hasansham 1) reported being subjected to bombing for up to 10 days prior to leaving. UNICEF provided technical support to local partner Triangle which sent psychological first aid mobile teams to the camp. Ten children were found separated from their families, and were being taken care of.
Four mobile teams with UNICEF’s local partner are also providing child protection services in Zelikan camp, northeast of Mosul, providing 380 children — 180 of them girls — with structured recreational and sports activities.
Initial interactions with children displaced from areas recently retaken by government forces indicates a high need for psychosocial support services with specific focus on mental health counselling.
UNICEF estimates that as many as 600,000 children could still be in Mosul. In preparation for anticipated displacements, 90 staff of child protection teams based in Baghdad, Erbil and Dohuk have received eight-day intensive training workshops.
Saturday, November 5 — More families flee Mosul
As the battle to retake Mosul intensifies, more and more families are fleeing from their homes. Since yesterday afternoon 3,200 people from the outskirts of Mosul have arrived at the newly established camp in Hasansham — this is the single largest displacement of people since the start of the 17 October military operation. UNICEF estimates that more than 2,500 children, including children with physical disabilities, are among them.
UNICEF and its partners have provided immediate emergency water, food, and dignity kits containing feminine products to approximately 26,000 displaced people through the Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM). Some 200,000 emergency RRM kits are pre-positioned in key locations, ready to support 1.2 million potential IDPs.
In newly constructed camps UNICEF is are ready to provide water, sanitation and access to toilets and showers for approximately 38,000 newly displaced people — half of them children.
Friday, November 4 — “You could read the fear on their faces”
In the single largest displacement since military operations to retake Mosul began some 5,200 people have arrived in two camps to the south of the city.
“My children are traumatized and scared and I’m happy that we arrived safely,” said a mother of five, who declining to give her name, described a harrowing journey from a town close to Mosul to the safety of Hasansham camp.
“They were so frightened. There was shooting, arterial bombardments, artillery fire and so much smoke. They had never seen anything like it in their lives.”
The family started walking to escape the violence and eventually joined a military convoy. They are among the hundreds of vulnerable families who’ve arrived in two camps in the last 24 hours with little more than the clothes they stand up in. UNICEF is providing safe water and sanitation facilities, including 350 toilets and 350 showers. We are immunizing children against preventable diseases, and distributing emergency kits with enough household supplies to last for a week.
“Hundreds of people have come without luggage and are asking for mattresses and water,” said UNICEF Chief of Erbil Office Maulid Warfa, who was at the camp making sure water and sanitation supplies were ready.
“You could read the fear on their faces; one woman I spoke to was shivering she was so happy to be safe.”
Thursday, November 3 — “They had gone through so much”
Some 20,700 people have been displaced since the operation to retake Mosul started on 17 October. UNICEF estimates that 9,700 of them are children in urgent need of assistance.
“I met mothers and children who were so relieved to have come out alive; it was clear that they had gone through so much,” said Pernille Ironside, UNICEF’s Chief of Field Operations in Iraq, following a visit to Nargizlia screening site.
Many of the new arrivals come in dusty, exhausted and uncertain about what was going to happen next. Some are even barefoot. UNICEF reaches out to the families, checking on the condition of their children and finding out if any of them are missing. Read more: http://uni.cf/2flwwc6
In Debaga Camp, a fresh start at a new school
“I’m looking forward to getting pencils and pens. I love having pens to draw with, and I love the camp because I have a space to play in.”
Bashar and his friends have come to the brand new school in Debaga Two Camp to collect school supplies. The scene is one of happy confusion as students show their identity cards and receive a UNICEF backpack and all the supplies they need to start school again — many for the first time in two years.
Debaga Camp has burgeoned in recent months, providing shelter for more than 16,000 children, but there have been no formal learning opportunities because the camp’s existing school is being used as a shelter for women and children who are waiting for space in new tents.
With support from the Government of Japan, UNICEF is building three schools in Debaga, and this one is the first to open. When all three schools are complete more than 2,000 children will have access to education.
After their details are taken, the students receive their brand new bags and head straight to the classroom.
“We want to learn English,” Bashar tells UNICEF Education Specialist Maria Paradies. “English is good because you can speak to everyone.”
Wednesday, November 2 — Nasreen is safe and looks forward to school
“I’m happy to be here. Now I can play with my friends and I’m not scared any more.”
Nasreen, 12, has not been in school since the third grade, two years ago. Her village north of Mosul was recently retaken. She wants to become an engineer, and she and her friends are eager to get back to the classroom.
With generous funding from the Government of Norway, UNICEF today began work on a school with 12 tented classrooms in Zelikan Camp, which will accommodate 960 students every day in two shifts.
Tuesday, November 1 — First Mosul Response Flash Update
Key points from our new Mosul Response Flash Update:
- As of 31 October 17,748 people — around half of them children under 18 — are newly displaced as a result of the Mosul operations.
- UNICEF is present in ten locations affected by the Mosul operations in Dahuk, Erbil, Ninewa and Salah al Din governorates.
- Three reports of boys recruited as suicide bombers have been received in the final week of October, with a total of 32 reports received in 2016. It was also reported that in October children have been killed during airstrikes, in cross-fire, by rockets, and in extra-judicial executions.
- Initial interactions with families and children indicates high need for psychosocial support services, with specific focus on mental health and specialised counselling.
- UNICEF is concerned about reported use of schools as shelter and screening sites, as well as the potential negative health effects of sulphur and oil well fires on children.
Download the full update: http://ow.ly/o5T0305LvHa
Sunday, October 30 — School tents take shape
UNICEF school tents are going up in Qayyara Jada’ah, a new camp for families displaced from in and around Mosul.
Here’s what children in the camp said when they heard they would soon be able to continue their education:
“What I miss the most is going to school. I haven’t been in a classroom for two years. I’m very exicted we are going to have a school here. I want to study hard and become a teacher.” — Abdilhadi, 11
“Since ISIL came to our village, we’ve had no school. Now I want to study everything!” — Tayba, 13.
Thursday, October 27—Mobile health teams reach children fleeing conflict
On Wednesday and Thursday hundreds of families fled Bashiqa. They were recieved in Nargizliya Screening Site, where UNICEF-supported health teams distributed water, biscuits and nutrition supplements to families, and immunized all children aged six months to 15 years. For many infants, it was the first time they’ve been immunized in their lives.
UNICEF’s work to provide emergency immunizations to children fleeing Mosul is possible with support from the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO).
A child protection team was also on hand to check whether there were any children who were separated from their families. UNICEF provided safe water to the families at Nargizliya, and will continue to do so in the coming weeks and months.
After moving through the screening site, on Thursday (Oct. 27) more than 280 people were transferred to Zelikan Camp.
In Zelikan UNICEF provides emergency hygiene supplies to families upon arrival, as well as ongoing water and sanitation services in the camp and screening for child malnutrition. UNICEF is also working to set up a safe space for children to learn and play.
Wednesday, October 26 — Voices of children from Debaga Camp
There are more than 16,000 children in Debaga Camp, displaced from various areas in northern Iraq. Many of these children have lived under ISIL control and walked long hours with their families to reach safety. These are some of their stories.
Maher,* 14, has been in Debaga Camp for just 15 days. Maher described how he and his little sister Zahra and his parents walked for over 15 hours to reach the camp. He pointed to his feet and his pair of worn out plastic slippers.
“We walked from the time of the morning call to prayer to the evening call to prayer. I walked in these shoes.”
Haytham,* 12, said he had not been in school for almost two years. All he wanted, he said, was to go back to a normal school.
“They only wanted to teach us how to use guns,” he said, pretending to shoot with his hands. “But I didn’t want to. I don’t want to use guns, I don’t like guns.”
Read more: http://uni.cf/2e08Fkn
*These children have not been pictured to protect their identities.
Also in Debaga Camp, UNICEF supports a space for at-risk boys to stay safe. Read the report from ABC Australia: ab.co/2eAN14y
Tuesday, October 25 —“When I saw you arrive with supplies, it was like a new day.”
Many of the over 15,000 people who have been displaced in the operation to retake Mosul have fled to semi-abandoned villages not far from the frontline, taking shelter with host communities, often in dire conditions.
“There is real concern over the condition of children staying in the villages,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Iraq. “In addition to the one-week emergency supplies we distribute, we are looking at ways to provide sustainable water delivery, access to health care, supplementary food, as well as kits of soap and shampoo.”
On October 24 UNICEF participated in the first multi-agency trip to deliver emergency supplies to newly-displaced families in Ibrahim Khalil, south east of Mosul. Six cargo trucks — one from UNICEF, one from WFP and four from IOM — loaded with water, hygiene supplies, food, blankets, heaters, and towels, and three pick-up trucks with mobile vaccination teams drove on dirt roads past destroyed villages to reach the small community.
Many children in line were barefoot. Their parents said they were staying in abandoned houses with nothing to protect them during the cold nights.
“When I saw you arrive with supplies, it was like a new day,” said Iman, her three children around her.
“In my village, my house was destroyed. There is nothing to go back to, everything is destroyed, and there is nothing for us. We’re desperate,” she said.
With support from the US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and the European Commission — Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO) UNICEF gave out 800 family water kits, enough for 4,800 people, and supported Department of Health mobile vaccination teams who immunized 400 children against polio and measles.
With the expectation that hundreds of thousands of girls, boys and their families could soon flee Mosul as military operations move into the city, UNICEF has teams in place to deliver aid wherever it is needed.
We now have water and sanitation facilities for over 200,000 people; support over 100 teams of vaccinators; 30 mobile teams of social workers; and over 1,000 schools in a box so that education can resume at the earliest possible time.
Making space for education in Qayyara Jada’ah Camp
In Qayyara Jada’ah, UNICEF is preparing to install school tents so that children who arrive can get back to learning as soon as possible. Most of the childen who flee from in and around Mosul have missed at least two years of school.
Monday, October 24— Two drops can change a life: campaign launched to immunize 5.8 million children against polio
A nationwide polio vaccination campaign that aim to reach almost six million young children in Iraq, including those fleeing conflict in Mosul, who are especially vulnerable after missing more than two years of routine vaccinations.
Conducted by the Ministry of Health with support from WHO and UNICEF, the campaign will pay special attention to reaching the most vulnerable children in camps, informal settlements, and newly retaken areas. More than 25,000 vaccinators will go from house to house during the campaign.
Read more: http://uni.cf/2eF1ddC
Sunday, October 23 — UNICEF Regional Director Geert Cappelaere visits Iraq
Today UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Geert Cappelaere came to Iraq. At the UNICEF warehouse in Erbil he was briefed on UNICEF’s preparedness and response for Mosul. In Debaga Camp he met children who shared their stories of a life uprooted by conflict.
Setting up in Salah al-Din
Meanwhile in Salah al-Din, a UNICEF team visited two camps under construction to eventually receive families fleeing Mosul.
The team also visited Shaham Camp, where 1,200 tents are being set up by the Ministry of Displacement and Migration (MODM), to determine if UNICEF health units could be set up there.
Saturday, October 22 — Giving children the chance to learn again
UNICEF is helping set up three schools in Debaga Camp, whose population has increased by a factor of six in as many months as children and families have fled the Mosul Corridor.
“We’re putting in two prefabricated and one tented school in Debaga,” said UNICEF Education Specialist Maria Paradies. “They’re almost finished. More than 2,000 children will attend the schools each day.”
“School is vital in emergencies — it gives a sense of normalcy to children who’ve had everything taken from them,” she added.
The camp’s existing school is being used as a shelter, so until now children have only had access to informal education.
“It’s amazing how a small initiative can provide so much hope,” said Maria. Over the summer, with support from the German Bank for Reconstruction (KfW), UNICEF partner Zhin conducted informal learning activites for two months in a child-friendly space in Debaga Camp.
“The children loved it,” she said.
Friday, October 21 — Live from the Erbil Warehouse
Yesterday UNICEF Chief of Erbil Field Office Maulid Warfa took questions live on Facebook from Al Jazeera English viewers about our work to meet the needs of children and families fleeing Mosul.
Thursday, October 20 — Giving children the chance to play again
Many boys and girls in Mosul and surrounding towns have witnessed atrocities and lived in fear for much of their young lives. UNICEF’s child-friendly spaces are helping children to recover by giving them a place to play, learn and simply being kids again.
“Yesterday was a good day,” said Anja Smid, Terre des Hommes Project Manager. With support from the German Bank for Reconstruction (KfW), the UNICEF partner officially opened a child-friendly space in Debaga Two Camp, home to about 1,800 families.
“It was organized chaos. The children were so excited.”
The space helps accommodate children living in new an expansion of the camp. “The children had all been attending the child-friendly space in the main camp, and we’ve been getting requests for months to open another space,” Anja explained. “Now in Debaga Two we have six tents, and we’re expecting some caravans so that we can have a separate place for children to meet with social workers. Overall, we’ll be able to accommodate up to 2,000 children five days a week.”
Bringing sanitation to Hasansham Camp
Meanwhile in Hasansham, UNICEF is ahead of schedule setting up sanitation facilities in this new camp that will provide shelter for families fleeing Mosul. With generous support from the US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), we’re building 220 sanitation platforms and delivering and installing 443 showers, 445 toilets, 120 water tanks and 240 tap stands. Here’s what it takes to build one sanitation platform.
By Monday, all 220 platforms needed in the camp will be finished.
Wednesday, October 19 — UNICEF delivers water at the frontline of the Mosul operation
Today UNICEF reach Al Houd, a town south of Mosul that was retaken just two days ago, to deliver clean water to some of the thousands of families that have been caught up in this conflict.
“We drove off-road to Al-Houd because all the roads are mined,” said UNICEF Emergency Specialist Atheer Al-Yaseen.
“We could hear the sound of airstrikes and bombings. Everything is black with soot because of the nearby oil fires in Qayyarah; even the sheep and dogs are black.”
Despite terrible road conditions, blinding clouds of dust and the proximity to the frontline, UNICEF and partner WEO delivered bottled water for 1,500 and hygiene kits with buckets, soap and detergent.
Zainab and her children were among those who recieved supplies. She explained that for the past two years, she and her children never felt safe.
“We were scared, hungry and in need all the time. I was scared about my children because I have four girls and I was afraid they would take them as they did in other villages.”
Read more: http://bit.ly/2emSmz3
Tuesday, October 18 — Water, water, everywhere
UNICEF leads in the provision of emergency water, sanitation and hygiene supplies in Iraq. As part of our Mosul response, on Tuesday we shipped water purification supplies to Shirqat, helped build a pipeline in Kirkuk, and sent toilets and showers to camps under construction in Erbil and Ninewa.
Providing water purification supplies to Shirqat
It was a tense and sometimes dangerous mission.
“We were driving into Shirqat and two missiles exploded about one or two kilometres away, but God saved us, and we were able to continue and make the delivery,” said Yasir Abed, UNICEF Emergency Facilitator.
Yasir was on a convoy taking water purification supplies from Tikrit to Shirqat, a town of about 15,000 people south of Mosul.
Shirqat has been chosen as the site for a number of new displacement camps. UNICEF delivered enough water purification supplies for three months for 15,000 people in Shirqat, plus up to 8,000 displaced people who could end up in camps there.
“I like to help people. I don’t mind that it was dangerous. I’m from Baghdad, and I’ve worked in dangerous situations before,” Yasir said.
Building pipelines in Kirkuk
Kirkuk hosts about 360,000 displaced people who are living not in camps, but in informal settlements or with relatives or who’ve rented their own apartments.
“That means there’s a lot of pressure on the existing water supply,” said UNICEF Water and Sanitation Specialist Prasad Rasal.
To help Kirkuk cope, with generous funding from the German Bank for Reconstruction (KfW), UNICEF is working with the Directorate of Water to build an eight kilometre pipeline from the nearby Khasa Chay Dam.
“Work on laying the pipeline will start soon,” Prasad said.
“UNICEF works to help not just in emergencies, but also in building longer-term solutions to community problems. We hope that the new pipeline will cater to the needs of everybody in Kirkuk.”
Sending showers to new camps
UNICEF has prepositioned enough water, showers, latrines and hygiene kits for over 150,000 people immediately, with plans to reach over 350,000 over the next few weeks as part of our Mosul response.
Monday, October 17 — Keep children safe in Mosul operation, UNICEF says
As a military operation to retake Mosul begins, UNICEF warned today that more than half a million children and their families will be at extreme risk in the coming weeks.
“Mosul’s children have already suffered immensely over the past two years. Many could be forcibly displaced, trapped between fighting lines, or caught in the cross fire,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Iraq.
Sunday, October 16 — Preparing for Mosul
“The challenges in this scenario are unprecedented.”
UNICEF Regional Emergency Coordinator Bastien Vigneau explains the unique challenges of preparing to respond to mass displacement from Mosul, and how UNICEF is adapting in response. Read more:
Before the operation to retake Mosul begins, there are already more than 4.7 million children in need of assistance across Iraq, and 3.6 million children at risk of extreme violence. UNICEF is working around the clock to reach them.