Families fleeing the fighting in Mosul,
northern Iraq pictured on March 23, 2017
Nearly half a million people have fled
their homes since Iraqi forces launched an
operation to wrest Mosul back from jihadists
exactly six months ago, the United Nations
Iraqi forces began the country's biggest
military operation in years on October 17
last year and recaptured the east side of
the city in January.
But an assault launched the following month
on the part of Mosul that lies west of the
Tigris river has seen a sharp rise in
"The sheer volume of civilians still fleeing
Mosul city is staggering," Lise Grande, the
UN's humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, said
in a statement.
"Our worst case scenario when the fighting
started was that up to one million civilians
may flee Mosul. Already, more than 493,000
people have left, leaving almost everything
behind," she said.
AFP / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE
The UN estimates that nearly half a million
people have fled Mosul as Iraqi forces press
an offensive to retake the city from the
Islamic State group
Iraqi forces have been making significant
gains in west Mosul over the past two months
but the toughest battles could yet lie
ahead, with diehard Islamic State group
jihadists hunkering down in the treacherous
streets of the Old City.
The UN estimated that another half million
civilians were still in IS-controlled areas
of west Mosul.
"Mosul has pushed us to our operational
limits," said Grande.
UN chief Antonio Guterres said on March 31
during a visit to a displacement camp near
Mosul that the aid effort was woefully
underfunded and called for greater
Around two thirds of the overall number of
displaced people fled their homes in west
Mosul over the past two months alone.
- Children exposed -
Grande said the fighting there was tougher
than on the east bank, which may explain why
some residents who had planned to weather
the fighting and stay eventually had to
AFP / AHMAD
Smoke billows from Mosul's Old City where
diehard Islamic State group jihadists are
hunkering down as Iraqi forces press an
offensive to oust them from the city
"There are more trauma injuries, homes
are being destroyed, food stocks are
dwindling quickly and families are at
serious risk because there isn't enough
drinking water," she said.
The UN has been expanding the capacity of
some of the camps scattered around Mosul but
the aid community could yet have to deal
with an unprecedented exodus if and when the
remaining civilians flee the city.
More than half of those who have fled Mosul
and its surroundings are children and the UN
voiced concern that those still in
IS-controlled areas would be more exposed
than ever before.
"We have seen children with signs of
psychological distress while others have
been injured in the fighting, or used as
human shields," the UN Children's Fund said.
Heavy rain swept one of the main floating
bridges across the Tigris south of Mosul and
forced the security forces to close another
over the weekend, further complicating the
military and humanitarian effort.
Iraqi forces began the country's
biggest military operation in years
in October last year to retake Mosul
from the jihadists
The Joint Operations Command coordinating
the fight against IS said engineering teams
were deployed and hoping to reopen the
bridges in the coming days.
People were allowed to cross the bridge near
Hammam al-Alil on foot Monday but vehicles
were still stuck.
All five bridges across the Tigris inside
Mosul itself have been destroyed in air
strikes or by the jihadists.
In east Mosul, many of those displaced in
the early stages of the operation have
Life has yet to return to normal however,
since people and goods cannot yet move
freely and key infrastructure was damaged in