Mosul IDPs at a displacement camp in the Kurdistan Region. Photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is reaching the limits of its ability to provide for the needs of tens of thousands of displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees and they have issued a plea for help from the international community amid growing anticipation of military operations in western Mosul.
“The purpose of this message is to alert the international community of an impending humanitarian catastrophe and to request additional resources to be provided immediately to deal with the increased burden,” said the KRG’s Minister of the Interior Karim Sinjari in a statement published Sunday, detailing his government’s efforts to care for 1,816,677 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees, including more than 96,000 who have fled Mosul and its surrounding areas since the start of the military offensive launched October 17.
The ministry’s Joint Crisis Coordination Centre (JCC) has also delivered aid to civilians who stayed in their homes, bringing food and non-food items to over 150,000 people living in liberated areas in the Nineveh Plains and inside Mosul, the JCC detailed in a report published Sunday.
Without “immediate assistance” the financially-strained KRG will not be able to receive any more IDPs and will not be able to continue providing basic services to the populations it is already hosting, the report warned.
The plea for assistance comes during a pause in the military operation as Iraqi security forces clear eastern Mosul after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced its liberation on January 24 following a three-month long offensive.
The KRG’s health and security services are particularly strained, Sinjari’s statement detailed.
Hospitals in the Kurdistan Region have received over 10,340 injured civilians since the start of the Mosul offensive and a “huge number” of wounded Iraqi and Peshmerga forces, he stated.
There are not enough beds to accommodate this influx. “Without immediate international assistance to build the capacity of Kurdistan's medical care, we could be heading towards a catastrophe,” Sinjari warned.
The KRG’s security services are worried that they will be overwhelmed if the number of IDPs increases as each person “must be properly screened before they are permitted to enter displacement camps in Kurdistan. This task is complex and time-consuming.”
The close security checks are coupled with fears of revenge attacks between populations in Mosul as trust between groups has been “shattered” after ISIS.
“Urgent financial support is critical for KRG institutions to respond effectively and efficiently to the massive humanitarian emergency that continues to unfold,” Sinjari stated.
According to the United Nations, an estimated 450,000 civilians are living in east Mosul, now under control of the Iraqi forces, and another 750,000 are still trapped under ISIS rule in west Mosul. As of January 30, 162,600 civilians have been displaced in the Mosul offensive, according to figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Of those remaining in west Mosul, 350,000 are estimated to be children, the charity Save the Children reported on Monday.