HALF OF THE CITY OF MOSUL HAS BEEN DESTROYED
After 10 months of violent combat, Mosul – Iraq’s second city – has been devastated. Its residents are trying to rebuild their lives. Première Urgence Internationale has opened an operational base in the city to work as closely as possible with local people.
After the battle of Mosul, the East and the West
The bell rings. A small group of children rushes into the school playground. Gradually, the bell is replaced by the noise of construction vehicles in the streets. In Mosul, clean-up and mine-sweeping operations are a daily occurrence. They began in February 2017 in the east of the city, and at the end of the year in West Mosul following the Battle of Mosul.
Although life appears to have returned to normal, “it is only an apparent calm,” says Liam Kelly, head of mission in Iraq for Première Urgence Internationale: “the conflict is less intense, but every week, there are more attacks inside and outside the city.” The mines that have been laid make the terrain dangerous.
In East Mosul, the streets are full to bursting. On the west bank of the Tigris, the river that runs through the city, they are almost empty. Some streets are littered with ruined heaps in this conflict-devastated part of the city. “After the Battle of Mosul, living in the west has been difficult. In certain places, particularly the old town, there’s nothing left. There are mines and unexploded devices. A lot of people from those areas came to East Mosul as refugees, contributing to overpopulation,” adds Liam.
A destroyed health centre in Mosul
An operational base in the country’s second city
After the Battle of Mosul, the needs of Iraq’s second city are now a priority for Première Urgence Internationale. The teams have refocused their work in the Mosul region and in the south of the country. At the end of December, they opened an operational base in the city of Mosul. “We now work from Mosul, managing the Salamiyah displaced persons camp 20 km away from the city.”
The Première Urgence Internationale teams also provide psychosocial support to the population. They are working in mental health units in health centres in the east of the city. “There is a huge amount of trauma among the population as a result of the daily bombardments, executions and torture,” adds Liam. “As a result, mental health plays an essential role in our work here.”
Every day, the waiting room in Al Rashidiyah hospital is full. An almost constant stream of patients files into the psychologist’s office. “We work in four health centres. We are particularly closely involved in training mental health experts.”
In the mental health unit at Al Rashidiyah
People returning from Bardarash camp
Establishing an operational base in the city of Mosul also makes it easier for teams to access nearby villages. Mobile clinics, staffed by doctors and mental health experts, travel around these areas. Water, hygiene, sanitation, and protection programmes have been established alongside psychosocial activities in Khorsebad, Abujrbuah and Derewish. The residents of these villages are known to the teams, because they come from Bardarash displaced persons camp. Première Urgence Internationale worked there for three years.
In 2017, Première Urgence Internationale left Bardarash camp, which received displaced persons from Mosul and the surrounding areas. When the displaced populations left the camp, Bardarash closed. “It sometimes took people several months to return,” says Liam. “Some of them visited their homes that they were originally forced to abandon. They then went back to find their families, who stayed in the camp while they checked that everything was in place for their return. Others looked for alternative solutions as their homes were destroyed or had been pillaged.”
8.7 million people in need
The work to rebuild after the Battle of Mosul is far from over. As well as the infrastructure and homes that need to be rebuilt, helping people to stand on their feet once more will take years. According to current estimates, 8.7 million people in Iraq are in need. “And the violence in the country is showing no signs of stopping.”