In reaction to Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declaring Mosul ‘liberated’ from ISIS, International Rescue Committee’s Iraq Country Director Wendy Taeuber, said: “The retaking of Mosul does not mean an automatic end to the suffering of the 1.5 million people that spent more than two years living under harsh ISIS rule. Many difficult months lie ahead for the more than 1 million people that were forced to flee their homes, as well as those that remained in Mosul, and survived ISIS brutality and the fight to retake the city. Despite the declaration, ISIS still controls some areas in the Old City of Mosul and ongoing fighting will continue to threaten the lives of civilians.

“Beyond Mosul at least 150,000 people, including around 75,000 children, are still living under ISIS rule in Hawija, Tel Afar and in western Anbar. Even once all territory has been cleared from ISIS fighters and unexploded mines, ISIS will continue to terrorize lives of people across Iraq, as attacks in recently retaken areas of west Mosul, Baghdad and beyond, have shown. 

“The horrors ISIS inflicted on the residents of Mosul left huge wounds not only in the social fabric of the city but also in the minds of people.Almost all have lost loved ones, and have likely seen or even experienced brutal punishment. We have heard from families that even children were forced to watch public executions and the bodies of those killed were left to hang in the streets for days. Many will also have had to cope with seeing family members injured or killed in coalition air strikes or in the fight to retake their neighborhood. The IRC spoke previously with one mother from west Mosul who lost her entire family to an airstrike after her home was occupied by ISIS snipers.

“The IRC is providing specialized services including counseling to men, women and children to support people to overcome the trauma that they have experienced. One mother described the impact of having her children attend an IRC ‘safe space’ where children take part in activities and games to help them to process their worries and to build their resilience: “In Mosul I barely let my children leave the house to keep them away from ISIS. Now my son makes people laugh again.

“Some may not feel safe returning to Mosul and should not be encouraged to return home before they are ready. We have seen in other formerly ISIS-controlled areas including Fallujah and Ramadi that it takes time for people to feel safe, communities to recover and trust to be restored. For those that do choose to return it is important areas are made safe, including clearing unexploded mines and booby traps which continue to pose a threat to civilian life long after ISIS is gone. Vital services such as water and power as well as schooling must be restored so people are able to restart their lives.

“It is important that funding for the humanitarian and protection needs of Iraqis remain a priority even after the military offensives against ISIS conclude. Investment in early recovery and resilience are critical for fostering peaceful co-existence between communities and equal access to resources and safety for all Iraqis. 

“The best way for residents of Mosul to get back on their feet is to help them support themselves. The IRC is working to support families to build their futures by providing training and grants for new businesses, securing identity documents so people are able to access government services and investing in education so we do not have a lost generation of children.”

For further information on the situation inside Mosul and the IRC’s response, visit here.