Battle for Mosul takes its toll on thousands of children

World Today

People try to warm up around a fire outside their tents at a camp for internally displaced people, in Khazir, near Mosul, Iraq. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

The battle between Iraqi and allied armed forces against ISIL in Mosul has resulted in thousands of people fleeing the city district.

A United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report this week showed the devastating effects of the hostilities, particularly on children—an estimated 35,000 children have left Mosul since the battles began in October of 2016.

“We’re extremely concerned for the safety and well being of children and their families caught up in the fighting to retake the city of Mosul and surrounding areas,” UNICEF said in a statement.

“Up to 1.5 million people living in the city may be affected by the operation, and it is thought that up to half of those in danger may be children. Hospitals, schools, homes, and other vital infrastructure have been destroyed or contain unexploded ordnance and improvised explosive devices,” the statement read.

The city in Iraq’s north has become a landmark battle between Iraqi and allied military forces and ISIL, who took over Mosul in June of 2014.

“When ISIS took the city, among them foreigners and people from Mosul. At the beginning we never thought we would have to witness and live something like we have been through, what we have seen under ISIS, you never saw those kind of things, even in your dreams, or in movies,” said Khodr Ahmed, who is an internally displaced person in Iraq, according to an interview by The Associated Press.

“You never seen what we have seen – killing in the streets, hunger, they made us starve to the extreme, they took our identity cards from us, they made us lose our jobs, there was no work anymore,” Ahmed said.

By U.N. estimates, nearly one million people could be displaced and 700,000 could need emergency accommodation due to the military operations in Mosul. Currently, three million people are already internally displaced.

The increased influx of people fleeing the fighting in Mosul is causing strain on the already-overwhelmed camps housing internally displaced persons in Iraq.

The United Nations Refugee Agency has already opened two new camps in an effort to accommodate the displaced families. The two camps are in addition to three nearby camps that are already full, according to the UN. With the two new camps, the UN said that there are now a total of six camps accommodating those fleeing the fighting in Mosul.