• 200,000 likely to flee the city in first weeks, but currently only enough tents for 60,000

  • The IRC will be supporting 60,000 in first two months, half through cash distributions

The military operation to retake the city of Mosul has begun without clear routes for families to escape safely, leaving thousands at risk of getting caught up in the fighting, warns the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

With no clear safe routes out of Mosul, thousands are now in danger of getting caught up in the cross fire. Civilians who attempt to escape the city will have little choice but to take their lives into their own hands and pray that they are able to avoid snipers, landmines, booby traps and other explosives. The IRC is also worried that oil burning in trenches around Mosul will harm the health of children and the elderly.

-Aleksandar Milutinovic, the International Rescue Committee’s Iraq Country Director

It is estimated that as many as 200,000 people could flee from the city in these first weeks, though there are currently only 60,000 tents available in seven emergency camps. In total, up to 1 million people could flee their homes in search of safety during the military operation, with an estimated 700,000 requiring shelter, food, water and other vital aid.

With emergency camps not ready for the large numbers likely to flee, the IRC anticipates that many people will find their way to abandoned buildings, schools and mosques in the towns and villages around Mosul. The IRC’s mobile response teams are ready to reach 60,000 of the most vulnerable, whether they flee to the north, east or south of the city. The IRC teams will provide £345 in cash to 5,000 families (30,000 people) so they can buy food, pay rent and buy clothes, blankets and cooking utensils. Another 30,000 will be given essential items, provided with legal support or identified as needing specialist care. With more funding the IRC could increase the reach of its response to 90,000 people.
After escaping the city, men and boys over the age of 14 will be security screened. This may take several days and it will be critical conditions are suitable, and people are provided with food, water, medical care and adequate communication on the process. The IRC will be one of the few aid agencies present at these centres, helping to ensure that the most vulnerable are identified, prioritised and, if necessary, given medical care.
Those fleeing Mosul will have lived under the nightmare of ISIS’s rule for two years. Many will have gone without medical care, struggled to pay for food and been traumatised by the violence they have witnessed. A significant number will require specialist help going far beyond the immediate needs of food, water and shelter in the months to come. The IRC’s teams of child protection and women’s protection experts will seek to support those most in need of additional care in the coming weeks.

How to help Iraqis fleeing Mosul

Read more about life in Mosul and the IRC’s planned respond here and the stories of Iraqis who recently fled ISIS controlled areas here.

IRC spokespeople are available for interview in Erbil, London, NY or DC.