Regular Press Briefing by the Information Service, 19 May 2017 - Iraq
Christophe Boulierac, for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), introduced Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Iraq. Speaking by phone from Iraq, Mr. Hawkins said that 500,000 people had been displaced out of western Mosul, where the siege on the inner city continued. In total, over 700,000 civilians had been displaced out of Mosul in its entirety. The protection of civilians, especially women and children still stuck in a city where conflict continued on a day to day basis, was of great concern. Those civilians had been cut off from food and medication for a number of weeks now. Children who had been stuck in basements were suffering from trauma, and that was also of enormous concern. Civilians were being injured and killed. Some of those who had been able to flee had seen their protection in fleeing compromised. It was expected that some 200,000 more civilians would come out of west Mosul – that could be less or more depending on the military situation. Preparations for that had bene underway for a while and UNICEF was providing water and sanitation facilities for the camps, as well as child-friendly spaces. For the moment, there were constraints in the number of places available. However, if the current exodus continued, there would be enough places to accommodate people over the next few days. Should it spike, the ability to accommodate them in all the camps might be compromised.
About 50 per cent of those coming out of west Mosul were finding places to stay outside of camps. In east Mosul, people had been greeted very warmly and hospitably. For those who were fleeing, a rapid response mechanism consisting of water, food and dignity kits was being provided. That was an ongoing operation by UNICEF, UNFPA and WFP. They then went through the screening to be accommodated within the shelters or in host communities. In the camps, there were facilities for children to receive immunization and psycho-social care through play and educational facilities.
One of the main concerns were those who remained inside the city. UNICEF, WFP and UNFPA with their very brave partners on the ground were providing multi-sectorial support in the form of water or aqua tabs, hygiene kits, some food and dignity kits so that people may remain in the city should they require to. This was also proving logistically very difficult since the roads leading into the city had been badly damaged and there was a risk of drone and mortar attacks from within the city, which were ongoing.
A lot had been done in eastern Mosul since the retake of the city. The water system was starting to work much better, UNICEF still trucked in about 2 million liters of water per day but the pumps were now beginning to be rehabilitated and connected to the water supply, thanks to work done by UNICEF and UNDP together with the Water Resources Authority. Vaccination of children was ongoing, and most of the city had been covered with measles and polio vaccination. A programme had been launched to make sure that all children were fully immunized over the next three to four months.
Schools were fully open now. Some 140 schools had been fully renovated and 350,000 children were back in school. That had been an enormous effort by the Department of Education. Mr. Hawkins highlighted the dedication of the teachers.
Asked about the figures regarding displacement, Mr. Hawkins added that about 30,000 people who had initially fled West Mosul had already returned. He also said that UNICEF believed that in the old city there were probably about 200,000 people trapped, but it was very difficult to know precisely. The potential for most of them to flee the city was very high.
Asked about the use of drones, Mr. Hawkins said that there had been experience of ISIL using drones in the eastern part of the city and that was of concern to the humanitarian community. It would constrain humanitarians’ work if drone attacks were to continue and intensify, especially if humanitarian convoys were targeted. At times, ISIL had used explosive ordnance on their drones.
Mr. Hawkins also expressed thanks to donors for their generosity towards all agencies and organizations working in Iraq, without which none of the humanitarian operations would be possible.
Jens Laerke, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said that hundreds of thousands of people were leaving Mosul and many of them had found refuge with other people in the area who had opened their doors to them. He quoted the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq as having said on 18 May that it was incredible to see the generosity of people in other parts of Mosul city, who had opened their homes and were looking after displaced families from western Mosul. Without their support the camps would have been overwhelmed long ago.
Mr. Laerke also said that the UN had an overall humanitarian response plan requesting USD 985 million and about one third of the plan was focused on the humanitarian response in Mosul. The plan was currently 28 per cent funded and more resources were urgently needed.