Some 400,000 Iraqis are facing food shortages while they are trapped in the Islamic State-controlled part of west Mosul amidst fighting, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said this week.
“The worst is yet to come, if I can put it this way. Because 400,000 people trapped in the Old City in that situation of panic and penury may inevitably lead to the cork popping somewhere, sometime, presenting us with a fresh outflow of large-scale proportions,” said Bruno Geddo, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Iraq.
Most civilians have avoided leaving for fear of Islamic State snipers and landmines, but an estimated 157,000 have reached a reception and transit center in the past month.
Fighting has been centered around the Old City this past week, but Islamic State militants still control some 40 percent of western Mosul. It’s estimated that the fighting to recapture Mosul could take weeks, according to SRNNews.com.
For now, civilians trapped in the Old City are facing shortages of food, fuel and electricity.
“People have started to burn furniture, old clothes, plastic, anything they can burn to keep warm at night, because it is still raining heavily and the temperatures at night in particular drop significantly,” Geddo said.
“The more you go without food, the more you become panicked and the more you want to run away. At the same time it (the outflow) is increasing because the security forces are advancing and therefore more people are in a position to run away where the risk is likely more mitigated,” Geddo added.
Photo: Families flee as Iraqi forces advance into Islamic State controlled west Mosul, part of the offensive to retake the city some two years after it fell to Islamic State, March 4, 2017. Iraqi forces have encountered stiff resistance with improvised explosives, heavy mortar fire and snipers hampering their advance.
Photo courtesy: Martyn Aim/Getty Images
Publication date: March 23, 2017