Over the last six weeks, more than 75,000 people have fled the fighting in Mosul and the surrounding area. Dozens of Handicap International field staff are providing rehabilitation care and psychosocial support to people–particularly those with disabilities and other vulnerable populations–in the Khazer camp, one of the main displacement areas.
“A lot of people have injuries or chronic diseases and their health condition has gotten worse over the last few weeks,” explains Mohamad, a Handicap International physical therapist. “Many also suffer from psychological trauma–particularly children–so our psychosocial support is vital,” adds Eyad, a Handicap International social worker.
By the end of this week, our teams will start working in other displaced persons camp including Hasansham, where some 36,000 people have taken refuge and Qayyarah Jad’ah, another major displacement area. “Some camps are empty, but our teams will start working there as soon as they open,” explains Maud Bellon, Handicap International’s emergency response manager in Mosul. “We won’t have to wait long because the number of displaced people increases daily, and the humanitarian emergency is growing and becoming more complicated with the onset of winter.
“We are also going to diversify our activities and our risk education teams, who raise awareness of mines and explosive remnants of war. Since the start of the year in Iraq, more than 5,000 people have been killed and over 10,000 injured by explosive weapons. Displaced people are often exposed to these risks, so it’s vital they know how to recognize an unexploded weapon and how to respond. Handicap International is also collaborating with other humanitarian organizations in order to cover all of the needs of the displaced population."
Mosul emergency response
In recent years, the fighting between armed groups and government forces in Iraq has led to the displacement of over 3.3 million people, with an estimated 10 million requiring humanitarian assistance throughout Iraq. The Mosul offensive will constitute an unprecedented challenge for international organizations. As a worst-case scenario, this military operation could result in the largest humanitarian crisis of 2016 and the displacement of one million people, according to the United Nations. Large numbers of families have already started fleeing the area over the last two weeks.
Handicap International and the Iraqi crisis
Handicap International has helped more than 125,000 people since launching its emergency response in 2014. (Handicap International has run other projects in Iraq since 1991.) The organization regularly reviews its actions to account for a highly volatile situation across the entire country. Current activities protect people by raising awareness of the risk from mines and conventional weapons. Teams conduct non-technical studies and clear potentially dangerous areas. Other staff provide physical and functional rehabilitation and psychosocial support, support to health centers, training and advocacy on the inclusion of people with disabilities, and technical support to partners to enhance the inclusion of vulnerable people in their services.