The race against time for Mosul’s children

© UNICEF/UN040095/Romenzi | A displaced woman carries a child at a check point south of Mosul in October 2016.

“I witnessed many people being slaughtered,” says Ammar, 12, who fled from west Mosul. “I used to see members of ISIL hang people from street lights. I’ll never forget the scene.”

Six months have passed since the start of the military operation to retake Mosul from ISIL. Today, an estimated 345,000 people — 190,000 of them children — have been displaced from Iraq’s second-largest city.

The intense fighting has shifted to the western parts of Mosul and about 400,000 people — half of them children — have no safe way out.

UNICEF is working around the clock to support children and families fleeing Mosul, as well as those who have stayed in the city or are living in newly-retaken areas.

Note: all numbers as of 9 April 2017.

© UNICEF/UN057863/Romenzi | Iraqis displaced by fighting between ISIL and the Iraqi armed forces carry their belongings as they walk on the outskirts of west Mosul in March 2017.

Civilians in west Mosul are living in extreme danger.

As the conflict escalates to retake the city, so does the risk of these children being caught in the crossfire.

Families have very little food and water, and few options to escape the horrors of war in their neighborhood. Booby trapped streets, sniper fire and artillery, put their lives in significant danger if they try to escape.

East Mosul is now under the control of the Iraqi government, but the situation remains tense.

An estimated 90,000 people have now returned to their homes, but there is a shortage of safe drinking water, electricity and other basic services.

Critical humanitarian support is ongoing.

© UNICEF/UN049563/Anmar | Men collecting water from a UNICEF delivery to east Mosul.

UNICEF and partners truck 2.3 million litres of water every day to provide safe drinking water for 200,000 people in east Mosul. Water tanks have been placed in strategic locations like schools and hospitals, and UNICEF is also distributing water purification tablets.

© UNICEF/UN049563/Anmar | Ahmed (centre), 10, attends a class at a recently reopened school in eastern Mosul in January 2017. “Today I feel like I’m back to life,” he said.

Approximately 320 schools have reopened in east Mosul, allowing 285,000 children to return to school for the first time in two years.

“I am very excited ... I thought we’d never be able to come back to school again.” Noor, 9

UNICEF has provided learning materials including math and science kits to 87 schools in the eastern part of the city, reaching 73,800 children.

Outside of Mosul, UNICEF and partners are supporting children’s education through Temporary Learning Spaces, providing “catch-up” classes covering the core subjects maths, science, Arabic and English.

“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.” Fadia

Fadia teaches children who fled Mosul at a UNICEF-supported Temporary Learning Space. She and her daughter were displaced by violence in Iraq in 2014.

© UNICEF/UN041568/Anmar | Omar, 3, from eastern Mosul, stands with some of his toys in Khazir Displacement Camp in November 2016. He arrived at the camp with his family the previous evening.

On average, 5,000 people arrive in the camps every day.

Displaced children and families are arriving without any belongings in a state of physical and mental exhaustion. Many have been subjected to human rights abuses and traumatic events, such as the loss of family members.

UNICEF partners are providing emergency child protection assistance to newly displaced children and families in the camps. To date, 70,000 displaced children have received psychological first aid and mental support and care through mobile teams of social workers.

“My mother stayed with me until I turned seven. She left me when she remarried, but she would visit me daily. But when ISIL left, she left with them.” Ahmed, 11

UNICEF-supported youth centres help boys like 11-year-old Ahmed recover from the devastating experience of being caught up in conflict.

© UNICEF/UN048909/Anmar | Displaced from Mosul, Sidra, 4, and her father Mohammed buy winter clothes in Hasansham camp in January 2017. UNICEF provided winter clothes to 35,000 displaced children using a voucher system. The system allowed families to buy appropriate winter clothes that suited their children.
“I know I can’t rebuild the houses of these children. I know I can’t give them money. But what I can do is to help improve their lives through fun activities and help remind them that life goes on.” Linda

Meet Linda. She fled ISIL and now works at a camp for displaced people where she helps children recover from their devastating experiences.

“We understand the situation of people because we live with them and we experience their suffering.”

Nurses who fled the violence in Mosul help babies born in a camp get a healthy start to life. Discover their story:

© UNICEF/UN041600/Niles | A young boy holds a baby hygiene kit he received during an aid distribution to eastern Mosul in November 2016. The distribution provided enough emergency food, water and hygiene supplies to last 30,000 people — including 15,000 children — for one month.

Since the start of the Mosul operation in October 2016, UNICEF and its partners have provided emergency food, water and dignity kits containing feminine products to nearly 957,000 vulnerable people.

A kit consists of 12 kg of immediate response food rations, a hygiene kit to last a family a week, 12 litres of bottled drinking water and a water container. The kits are small and targeted at displaced people who may still be on the move.

© UNICEF/UN044162/Khuzaie | Malak, 4, waits in line during an aid distribution in eastern Mosul in December 2016. The humanitarian aid delivery provided vital emergency food, water and hygiene supplies for 42,000 people — including 21,000 children.

The world’s attention is fixed on the Mosul military operation. But once it is over, the humanitarian crisis will still be here. The millions of displaced Iraqis will need to rebuild and re-establish their lives. UNICEF will be here to help them.

Help support UNICEF’s work in Iraq:

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UNICEF Iraq remains grateful to our partners and donors — including Canada, Germany (BMZ and KfW), Italy, Japan, Sweden and the United States (OFDA & PRM) — who support our work to ensure people in need across Iraq can live in dignity and health.

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