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Battle for Mosul

Cash relief helps an Iraqi family start over after ISIS

For over two years many of Mosul’s 1.5 million residents lived under ISIS’s harsh regime without an income. Small businesses such as beauty salons and pool halls were banned, and government salaries were suspended. People exhausted their savings and sold their possessions just to buy food and pay rent. The International Rescue Committee is providing hundreds of these families with emergency cash relief. Meet one of them.

  • In February supply routes were cut to west Mosul, where hundreds of thousands of people remain trapped under ISIS control. As a result, food prices skyrocketed. “We were living on bread and tomato paste for four months,” says 30-year-old Iqbal Salih Ahmed (left), whose husband, a manual laborer, could only find odd jobs to support their family.

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  • Iqbal's family are among the 700,000 people displaced by the battle to retake the city from ISIS. Thousands continue to flee every day and many camps for uprooted families are now full. With no tent available, Iqbal's family is staying with relatives in Hammam al-Alil, a town retaken by the Iraqi army in November.

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  • Shops and markets in Hammam al-Alil are starting to reopen. The streets are beginning to bustle with children making their way to school. But many families are still struggling to get back on their feet and are not able to afford the basics. The IRC has provided Iqbal's family and more than 850 others here with emergency cash.

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  • Iqbal and her family left everything they owned behind when they fled ISIS, so the money was a welcome relief. “IRC helped us a lot," she says. "They helped us buy the things that we couldn’t even dream of in Mosul. We bought blankets and clothes for my kids.”

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  • The IRC will soon distribute cash to vulnerable families in retaken neighborhoods in east Mosul, where many people say they must rely on credit to buy food. “Cash is more important than anything else,” Iqbal says, “because money allows us to buy whatever we need, whether it’s food or paying rent."

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  • Iqbal also plans to use the cash she receives to take her eldest son to see an eye doctor and buy him new glasses—the family hasn’t been able to afford to replace his broken pair. But for now, she says, “it is really a nice feeling to see my kids eating healthy food again. It’s much better than only eating bread.”

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  • Cash relief is vital for families struggling to meet their immediate needs. But the long-term prospects remain dim for Mosul residents like Iqbal and her husband who also need get back to work, cash paychecks, reopen businesses—and look ahead to a brighter future. Story by Jess Wanless. Photos by Aurelie Marrier d'Unienville. Read more about cash relief in Iraq. 

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