As military forces fight to retake Iraq’s second largest city from the so-called Islamic State (ISIL), more than half a million children could be left in the crossfire.

Children who’ve already endured two years of terror could now be forced to flee or trapped between the fighting lines. UNICEF is working around the clock to support civilians fleeing Mosul.

Read on for rolling updates on the situation or to make an emergency donation for children.
Updated 22 October 2016

Giving children the chance to play again

Boys and girls in Mosul and surrounding towns have lived under ISIL's terror for much of their young lives. This report shows how UNICEF's child-friendly spaces are helping children to recover by playing, learning and simply being kids again.

5,640 people have been displaced from their homes since operations began to retake Mosul from ISIL but that number is expected to rise significantly as hostilities intensify closer to urban areas. Some 200,000 people may be forced to flee to safety in the initial weeks of this conflict and, in the worst-case scenario, up to a million could eventually be displaced.

ISIL is using 'human shields'

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has called for the protection of civilians to be at the forefront of military planning as the Iraqi Government and associated forces attempt to re-take Mosul.

“We are gravely worried by reports that ISIL is using civilians in and around Mosul as human shields as the Iraqi forces advance, keeping civilians close to their offices or places where fighters are located, which may result in civilian casualties,” said Zeid.

The High Commissioner is particularly concerned about the women, children and men held captive by ISIL. “There is a grave danger that ISIL fighters will not only use such vulnerable people as human shields but may opt to kill them rather than see them liberated,” he said.

Updated 21 October 2016


Preparing aid for an unpredictable crisis

  Aid agencies are racing to prepare for the looming displacement of children and families.

“The challenges in this scenario are unprecedented. We don’t often have up to one million people potentially on the move; it’s very rare in scale and size,” said UNICEF Regional Emergency Advisor Bastien Vigneau.

UNICEF will have to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances.

“Beyond the protection of children’s rights in this volatile situation, this is primarily a supply and logistics emergency response, and flexibility is our major challenge,” said Vigneau.

“We know we cannot prepare as much as we’d like for this because the situation is going to change all the time; it’s difficult to predict how the people of Mosul will be affected during the military operation.”

Meanwhile, the Australian Government has made a welcome contribution to the humanitarian response.


UNICEF reaches children south of Mosul

UNICEF has just delivered emergency water and sanitation supplies to al Houd, a town just south of Mosul that was retaken by Iraqi security forces two days ago. Under the control of the so-called Islamic State, many of al Houd’s children and families were forced to drink unsafe water and risked disease.

Despite terrible road conditions, blinding clouds of dust and the proximity to the frontline, UNICEF and its local partner WEO (Women Empowerment Organization) delivered a week's worth of bottled water for 1,500 and hygiene kits with buckets, soap and detergent.
UNICEF will now assess the needs of the children and families in al Houd and move to a longer term solution for the town.

Hoping for the best, preparing for the worst

The needs of children and families in Mosul are difficult to predict. The worst-case scenario: one million people displaced and 700,000 in need of emergency accommodation.

Three million Iraqis are already displaced within the country and more than 4.7 million children need urgent humanitarian assistance.
UNICEF and partners on the ground are working to rapidly deliver supplies to temporary camps for displaced children and families. UNICEF plans to reach 784,000 people affected in Mosul and fleeing the city. © UNICEF/UN036095/Mackenzie

On top of our daily work for the children of Iraq, UNICEF is preparing to meet the needs of this enormous crisis. We have:
  • Prepositioned supplies of enough water, showers, latrines and hygiene kits for over 150,000 people immediately with plans to reach over 350,000 over the next few weeks
  • 60 mobile health teams on standby  to care for the most critical cases of mental and physical trauma among the children.
  • Together with the Ministry of Health, UNICEF also has over 50 teams on standby to start a vaccination campaign against diseases like polio and measles.
10-year-old Fatima, is one of the children in camps near Mosul, washes her face at a UNICEF-supplied water tank. Hundreds of thousands of people have already fled the violence and more than a million could be affected by the new operations. © UNICEF/UN034964/Anmar

“Flexibility is our major challenge. We know we cannot prepare as much as we’d like for this because the situation is going to change all the time; it’s difficult to predict how the people of Mosul will be affected during the military operation.” - UNICEF Regional Emergency Advisor Bastien Vigneau.

Three-year-old Aya is one of more than 30,000 Iraqis who've fled Hawija since August. She and her family walked for 12 hours through an active conflict zone littered with improvised explosive devices before arriving in a camp in northern Iraq. © UNICEF Iraq/Mackenzie

UNICEF have been active in Iraq since 1952 and are continuing to expand aid operations in country in response to this crisis. However as violence escalates humanitarian needs will rapidly outpace the response.

UNICEF’s work for children in Iraq

Years of violence and conflict have left about 10 million Iraqis in need of humanitarian assistance. Over half of them are children.

As violence continues to escalate in the country, there have been reports of mass executions, gender-based violence including rape and torture, and use of children as human shields.
UNICEF estimates that one in every five schools is destroyed or closed. More than 600,000 displaced children have missed an entire school year, placing girls at increased risk of early marriage.

Water and sanitation infrastructure remains weak in many areas and hospitals have been destroyed in the conflict. Public health services are overwhelmed, leaving pregnant women, new mothers, infants and young children at serious risk.

UNICEF is delivering emergency aid and support on a huge scale. In 2016, UNICEF is working to:
  • Reach 1.9 million people with clean, safe water.
  • Immunise 5.9 million children against the threat of polio that looms in conflict zones.
  • Give 650,000 children the educational supplies they need to keep learning.
  • Provide 14,655 households direct cash transfers to they can buy essentials for their children from local markets.
  • Support 206,000 children with psychosocial care so they can build resilience and recover.

Donate life-saving supplies to children in Mosul and beyond

UNICEF is delivering aid to save lives in Iraq but we just don't have the funds to reach every child. This is one of many intense and unrelenting conflicts that demand our response across the region. Your gift will support children in Iraq and wherever they most need our help in this regional crisis.

Together we can give these children the protection and support they deserve. Children trapped in war and crisis simply cannot wait: please give generously now.
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