Civilians fleeing Mosul are in dire peril and conditions in the beleaguered northern Iraqi city are “desperate and worsening” with heavy bombing, fierce fighting and no food, water or fuel, the UN refugee agency warned on Friday.
“The risk to people fleeing Mosul is now very great, with people having to move being in grave danger,” UNCHR spokesman Andrej Mahecic said.
“People speak of conditions that are desperate and worsening. Families arriving from West Mosul report heavy bombing and fighting.
“They also tell UNHCR that there are no basic services in the city, no food, no water and no fuel,” he added.
Some families in Mosul told UNHCR they have been living on one meal a day; often just bread, or flour and water, sometimes supplemented with tomato paste, Mahecic said.
UNHCR cited Iraqi authorities as stating that over 630,000 people have left Mosul and surrounding areas since Iraqi forces began a military operation to re-take the city from the Islamic State jihadist group in October, an offensive which the army said it will complete this month.
“Despite enormous risks, the number of people fleeing West Mosul shows no sign of slowing down,” said Mahecic.
“We expect more large outflows of people from the west of the city.”
UNHCR calls on all parties in the fighting to ensure civilians are not prevented from leaving conflict zones and are given access to safe areas, including people currently trapped in Mosul, Mahecic said, adding: “Equally, civilians must not be forced to return to unsafe areas.”
UNHCR has opened 12 camps for civilians fleeing the conflict in Mosul, and nearly 500 children, women and men children have arrived at the newest camp, Hasansham U2, located around 60 km west of the city, since it opened on Tuesday, Mahecic said.
Hasansham U2 has capacity to shelter more than 9,000 people, and each family arriving there receives a tent and other basic aid items including blankets, mats, a cooker, jerry cans, plastic sheeting and a kitchen set, according to UNHCR.