CHAOS AS IRAQI GOVERNMENT CALLS CIVILIANS TO FLEE WEST MOSUL
On Thursday, May 25, the Government of Iraq dropped leaflets on the last ISIS strongholds in west Mosul urging civilians to immediately flee the city via new exit corridors being established.
Save the Children is deeply concerned that any calls to leave west Mosul will mean that civilians, particularly children, are in significant danger of being caught in the crossfire. The Iraqi government must ensure all exit corridors are genuinely safe for people to flee. The UN estimates there could be as many as 200,000 civilians still trapped in west Mosul, at least half of them children.
The call for civilians to leave their homes is a U-turn on former directives that compelled civilians to stay and wait for the battle to pass. Save the Children believes civilians must be protected whether they choose to stay or leave and that adequate measures are taken to ensure their safety.
This is now a critical moment for the protection of civilians, with fears mounting that families trapped in the city will be forced to make the impossible decision: flee and be targeted by ISIS snipers and booby traps or remain and risk being bombed by shelling and airstrikes. Save the Children is calling for the immediate creation of safe and secure routes for the people of West Mosul.
When explosive weapons are used in populated areas more than 90% of those killed or injured are civilians. And it’s the children who are most likely to die, their organs, small bodies and skulls less able to withstand the force of an explosion.
17-year-old Hazem* described the moment after an explosion that killed members of his family:
“I couldn’t open my eyes. I panicked and started calling my mom. No one answered me. I was in so much pain that I couldn’t stay awake...I thought I would die here. I said my last prayers many times.
“I put out my hand and there was a bucket with blood. I put my hand in it and it was cold. I thought it was water. I tried it and it tasted like water. So I drank from it. It was blood. I drank it. I drank blood for five days.”
Ana Locsin, Iraq Country Director, Save the Children, said:
“While we welcome efforts that seek to ensure civilian safety in the battle for Mosul by calling for people to leave, we are left extremely concerned that the leaflets we have seen contain no information on how they will be made safe. This risks endangering the lives of tens of thousands of children who are likely to be caught up in the deadly chaos as families rush to find safety. Men, women and children trying to escape must be able to do so safely and without fear of attack or detention.
Even if civilians are successful in their escape, further deadly challenges remain. Along major routes of displacement from west Mosul, families are required to undergo multiple separate screenings. Women and children are routinely separated from men and adolescent boys at screening sites and then often moved on to camps for the internally displaced. As a result, family separation remains a major concern.”
For those who decide to leave west Mosul, Save the Children is calling on parties to the conflict to:
· Guarantee that safe routes are indeed safe and maintained for civilians, including children and their families, to be able to flee the conflict;
· Ensure civilians have access to places of refuge and humanitarian assistance;
· Ensure all screening procedures for civilians are fair, transparent, and consistent. Children should be treated as children first and foremost.
For those who cannot leave West Mosul or choose to stay, Save the Children is calling on parties to the conflict to:
- Guarantee humanitarian access to civilians trapped inside Mosul, and refrain from depriving civilians of basic necessities such as food, water and medical supplies.
- Avoid the use of explosive weapons in populated areas as these will inevitably lead to civilian casualties. Parties to the conflict must take all feasible precautions to protect children and their families and civilian infrastructure, such as schools and hospitals.
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