Six months have now passed since the siege of Mosul began. Thousands of people have lost their lives in the ensuing violence, and the UN estimates that nearly half a million people have been forced to flee their homes.
Mosul is a major city in northern Iraq, situated 250 miles north of the capital of Baghdad. It stands on the west bank of the Tigris river and was the second most populous city in Iraq before the deadly escalation in violence.
According to UN data, as many as 500,000 people remain under siege in western Mosul, out of reach of humanitarian aid agencies. 400,000 of them are trapped in the densely populated old city.
Every day, the citizens of Mosul face devastating risks. Food, clean water and basic medical items are scarce, and families are quickly running out of essential supplies. Mothers are forced to give their children dirty water because clean water supplies have been cut off. The risk of a cholera or dysentery epidemic developing is extremely high. Homes are constantly being destroyed and people are sustaining serious injuries every day.
Those who do manage to flee the city must brave crossing ground contaminated with landmines. Many families escape without savings or belongings, their only possessions the clothes on their backs. They face uncertainty and hardship when they reach camps on the outskirts of the city, where food, shelter and basic items like blankets and cooking equipment are scarce.
Before violence and chaos overtook the city of Mosul, it was a thriving hub of diversity, where people of different faiths and backgrounds, including Arabs, Kurds, Christians, Jews and Muslims lived side by side. Mosul has at least 4,000 years of history and a rich cultural heritage, but as conflict continues to devastate the city, Mosul’s historic buildings and other landmarks are being systematically destroyed.
Mosul was home to the Mosul Museum, the second largest museum in Iraq, the Great Mosque of al-Nuri, Basha Tapia Castle, and the University of Mosul and its well-regarded Medical College. Now, Mosul is a city of rubble and ash.
In 2003, the US-led invasion of Iraq saw the end of Saddam Hussein’s government and the beginning of years of uncertainty and violence, as different factions competed to take control of the country. America handed sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government in June 2004. January 2005 saw nearly 8 million people turned out to vote for a Transitional National Assembly, and by December, Iraqis were voting for the first full-term government and parliament since the 2003 invasion.
However, sectarian violence continued to devastate Iraq, with bombings killing an average of 100 civilians every day in May and June 2006. The UN estimated that in 2006 alone, 34,000 civilians were killed. Truck and car bombs continued to take hundreds of lives, and US troops pulled out of Iraq completely in December 2011.
Violence intensified in April 2013 and Iraq was plunged into a full-scale sectarian war. By the end of 2013, the UN reported a death toll of 7,157 civilians. In September 2014, a broad-based government is formed to include Shias, Sunnis and Kurds. By December, a deal is signed between the Iraqi government and Kurdish Region leadership to share military resources to battle insurgents. From early 2014 onwards, conflict in Iraq escalated and the country’s infrastructure sustained severe damage. The violence is still ongoing, and as always, civilians are paying the highest price.
According to UNOCHA, there are 11 million Iraqi people in need of humanitarian assistance and 3.4 million who have become displaced within Iraq. Families who have lost their homes are largely living without adequate access to food and clean water, and many are sheltering in flimsy structures that don’t offer protection from the elements.
In besieged or hard to reach areas like the city of Mosul, humanitarian agencies cannot access those trapped inside, leaving them vulnerable to starvation, disease and grievous injury from ongoing bombing campaigns.
The World Food Programme estimates that a quarter of a million Syrian refugees are seeking safety in northern Iraq, placing additional pressure on resources that are already very limited. At least 800,000 people need food assistance.
The Iraq conflict has taken a grave toll on the lives of children. UNICEF reports that millions have had their education disrupted and are now more vulnerable to deadly diseases like cholera and polio. The escalation in violence has left children open to serious protection risks and the number of human rights violations against children have doubled over the past year.
As of February 2017, 5.1 million children have been affected by the shocking humanitarian crisis in Iraq. Children are being separated from their families, orphaned and seriously injured by the ongoing violence. They live in fear of their lives, as indiscriminate attacks on civilians, schools and hospitals are frequent. UNICEF estimates that 1 in 3 Iraqi children are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.
With no political or diplomatic solution to the Iraq crisis in sight, millions of Iraqis will continue to suffer without sustained intervention from humanitarian agencies.
Human Appeal is one of the only NGOs in the world with an office in East Mosul, delivering aid directly to civilians fleeing the ruined city.
We have already provided 20,000 people from Mosul with emergency aid, and distributed 1,500 food parcels to one of the major camps outside the city. We have distributed 500 large, high-quality blankets to keep vulnerable families warm in the coldest months of the year, and set up a mobile medical unit to treat the sick and injured from 6 camps.
However, this amazing work is only possible with your support. Just £100 can provide an Iraqi family with food, clean water and other essentials to las them one month. The children of Mosul are crying out for our help.
Now is the time to give.