In Rebuilding Mosul, The People Come First.

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A multi-NGO meeting, chaired by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Iraq (OCHA), has reported on the immediate challenges facing Mosul’s citizens in the weeks and months ahead.

13 international and local non-governmental agencies contributed to the report, which unsurprisingly concludes that there are unmet needs concerning food, water and health throughout the city, which are particularly acute in West Mosul.

Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, said last week: “In western Mosul what we’re seeing is the worst damage of the entire conflict. In those neighbourhoods where the fighting has been the fiercest, we’re looking at levels of damage incomparable to anything else that has happened in Iraq so far.”

In this second round of rapid needs assessments (RNA) (the first were conducted in April, and concentrated solely on neighbourhoods east of the Tigris river), of the 92 remaining neighbourhoods not accessed in April, a further 43 were reported on this time. Because the situations across the city are diverse, the report warns that all findings are applicable only to the areas assessed, and should not be generalised.

Interviewers worked with key informants (KIs) from different population groups: IDPs from other parts of Mosul, returnees, and host non-displaced (residents who remained and are hosting IDPs) and non-host non-displaced.

The WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) teams described a grim situation in the 29 assessed neighbourhoods of west Mosul, where 25 rely on water trucking. The other 4 assessed are dependent on unprotected open wells and bottled water. Open wells pose a significant health risk, as they can become contaminated with anything from excreta to dead bodies. KIs told the RNA that diarrhoea and skin diseases are prevalent.

In all 43 neighbourhoods, access to healthcare was said to be challenging by KIs. The key problem was a lack of facilities, or logistical problems in accessing nearby clinics. In 11 neighbourhoods 26-50% of the population are ill, injured or disabled.

While markets are functioning in around three quarters of the assessed city, many people simply do not have the money to buy food. Over 50% of the population have not earned an income in the last 30 days, meaning they rely on credit, borrowing, savings and selling assets to eat. ‘Limited economic resources’ also play a part in a lack of shelter materials such as tarpaulin and timber, and household items such as mattresses and blankets.

Children are bearing much of the toll of the conflict. Hamida Ramadhani, UNICEF deputy representative in Iraq, said in a statement on Thursday: “Although the battle for Mosul is coming to an end, children’s deep physical and mental scars will take time to heal. Some 650,000 boys and girls, who have lived through the nightmare of violence in Mosul, have paid a terrible price and endured many horrors over the past three years.”

The boys and girls that remain are considered ‘at risk’ in half the neighbourhoods covered in the report, with child labour the main concern. Access to education is a pipe dream for many, with 34 of the 43 areas indicating a lack of schools and materials as their biggest challenge.

In a more positive example of how quickly life is returning to some semblance of normality in the east of the city, KIs there report that employment and legal assistance are their biggest requirements, contrasting with the west, where the basics of food, water and household items remain the highest priority.

With conditions in camps worsening as summer reaches a peak, rates of return to the city have increased. Speaking to The Guardian Bnar Duski of the Barzani Charity Foundation explained: “Some people go back to east Mosul because the conditions in the camps are not good, especially in this heat, but when they get there … many turn around and come back to the camps.”

“Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis will want to go home in the coming months. Their return must be safe, dignified and voluntary,” tweeted the Iraq focused accounts of multiple UN agencies. According to figures from the Ministry of Displacement and Migration, over 870,000 have been displaced since the start of Mosul operations 17 October last year. Almost 145,000 have returned to east Mosul, 51,000 to western neighbourhoods. The remaining displaced are roughly evenly between living in an out of camps.

With the end of major operations against ISIL in Mosul, comes the bewildering challenge of reconstruction.

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