Iraq: International community must support civilians affected by impending battle for Mosul
Up to 1.5 million people could be affected by expected military offensive to liberate Iraqi city
Sep 28 2016
International aid organisation Action Against Hunger is preparing its emergency response for civilians expected to flee Mosul during the impending offensive. The charity warns up to 1.5 million people currently in Iraq could be affected by the battle, leading to a humanitarian crisis of unprecedented scale.
Preparations began in May 2015, when Action Against Hunger started reinforcing its programmes in Iraq as part of a “preparedness strategy”, aimed at ensuring it could respond to the needs of thousands of newly displaced families. Well established north of the city, in the Ninewa governorate, the organisation has assessed local communities’ capacity to handle new mass influxes of people and has designed specific programmes to help them based on their findings.
“For more than a year, we’ve built and reinforced the capacities of host communities in dozens of villages that are likely to welcome the next waves of IDPs,” said Aneta Sarna, Action Against Hunger’s country director in Iraq.
“Our teams have assessed the needs and the market’s capacities, developed networks of local people we can rely on and work with, created strong bounds with local authorities, trained volunteers in hygiene promotion and psychological and social support, and fixed and maintained water networks.”
Despite the scale of the needs, Ms Sarna said humanitarian efforts to ease suffering linked to the Iraq crisis remain woefully under-funded. As of mid-September, only 54 per cent of the funding needed for the year had been found.
“Despite humanitarian agencies efforts, it appears that there are and will be considerable gaps between the anticipated needs and what may be possible,” she said. “The international community needs to prioritise the crisis to avoid a humanitarian tragedy.”
The organisation plans to respond the needs of up to 30,000 people fleeing Mosul following the start of the military offensive. It is focusing on Ninewa governorate, where it has been operational since June 2014, as it is expected many will flee there from Mosul. It currently provides food aid, water, sanitation and hygiene, and psychological and social support to displaced Iraqis and host communities.
To operate quickly and efficiently, Action Against Hunger will deploy mobile teams; a method used in fluid and volatile contexts that grants the organisation flexibility when responding. It has prepositioned contingency stock - including 1,200 hygiene kits, 2,400 jerry cans, and numerous other items - in order to respond quickly to the most urgent needs of newly-displaced families.
Action Against Hunger’s intervention in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) started as a response to the sudden mass influx of people fleeing Syria in August 2013. The organisation was at the forefront of the response when many people fled there in 2014, after IS took control of part of Iraq. It remains a key humanitarian actor in the country.
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