MOSUL: PROTECTING CIVILIANS MUST BE AT THE HEART OF THE RESPONSE
Forces involved in the Mosul offensive must take all measures to protect civilians and allow them free passage to safety, urges Action Against Hunger as foreign ministers from several Western and Middle Eastern countries convene in Paris to discuss the Iraqi city’s future.
Up to 1.5 million Iraqis could be affected by the ongoing offensive to retake Mosul, many of them women and children. Ahead of today’s high-profile Paris meeting, which the organisation says disappointedly did not include consultation from civil society, Action Against Hunger has several asks to safeguard the wellbeing of tens of thousands of families likely to flee the violence. They include:
• All parties to the conflict allowing civilians unhindered access to safety and humanitarian assistance, in accordance with international humanitarian law;
• Substantial international support – both practical and financial - for the aid effort to ensure warm, dry shelter for all displaced families ahead of another harsh Iraq winter, as camps remain unfinished and unlikely to accommodate everyone
• The implementation of a fair, consistent, transparent screening process for those displaced that abides by international and national law and protects people’s dignity, preventing any escalation in inter-ethnic tensions
• Urgent dialogue between Baghdad and Erbil on governance and the provision of public services in newly recovered areas and the “disputed internal boundaries” between the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government.
To avoid casualties, forces involved in the violence must adhere to international humanitarian law, the organisation says, preserving the safety and dignity of civilians as well as their right to access humanitarian assistance and safe areas.
“We fear the population could be blocked in a city under siege, used as human shields, taken in the middle of clashes or impacted by airstrike campaigns,” says Aneta Sarna, Country Director for Action Against Hunger in Iraq.
Ahead of today’s high-profile Paris meeting, which the organisation says disappointedly did not include consultation from civil society, Action Against Hunger is also warning that civilians fleeing Mosul urgently need access to warm, dry shelter – as well as essentials such as food, water and access to health care – as displacement camps are not yet ready and, even when complete, are unlikely to accommodate all of those families displaced ahead of another harsh Iraq winter.
Ministers are expected to discuss the protection of civilians and the delivery of humanitarian assistance to civilians, as well as the future of Mosul and the Ninewa region, at today’s meeting. Against Hunger urges the international community to provide adequate practical and financial support to ensure humanitarian agencies can respond at scale to the urgent needs of families fleeing the battle.
“At this stage, most of the camps aren’t ready and they won’t have enough capacity to accommodate a large number of people,” says Ms Sarna. “Furthermore, most IDPs will likely not be able to return to their homes before the winter, which will exacerbate needs.”
Access to shelter, water and sanitation services, health, and food is anticipated to be limited to critical, she said, while providing protection-focused aid to the displaced, including psychological support, will also be vital.
Fair, consistent and transparent screening procedures for the waves of civilians expected to flee the city must be implemented, the organization said. Procedures that respect international and national standards, protect people’s dignity and do not create protection risks for the most vulnerable are essential in order to avoid exacerbating existing inter-ethnic tensions, particularly in areas experiencing high levels of humanitarian needs and discrimination. While the screening process will have to be conducted only by state actors, the support and presence of humanitarian protection partners must be allowed, it adds.
States should support urgently the dialogue between Baghdad and Erbil on governance and the provision of public services in newly recovered areas and the “disputed internal boundaries” between the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government. At the very least, concrete ad hoc mechanisms have to be found, to ensure the population do not pay the price for this unresolved situation.
“Our main concern is for civilians to be affected as little as possible by the hostilities,” says Ms Sarna.
To the Editor:
Action Against Hunger plans to support up to 90,000 people fleeing Mosul in addition to its regular activities through the distribution of food, cooking sets, basic emergency shelter kits and hygiene kits as well as water trucking, the installation of latrines and showers, and the provision of psychological support to those who are most distressed.
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