UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, has opened a new camp in Hammam al-Alil to house thousands of newly-displaced Iraqis who continue to flee the military offensive in western Mosul. The first 500 families began arriving at Hammam al-Alil 2 camp today.
Each household, depending on family size, will receive a tent and other basic items including blankets, mats, a cooker, solar light and kitchen set. To date, some 2,500 tents are ready, enough to shelter more than 15,000 individuals. A second phase of the camp is nearing completion and the site will have total capacity for up to 30,000 people.
"Life was getting very difficult especially since food was running short. We only had wheat flour to eat,” Said Kathe Awad Taha, a mother of three blind sons who fled from the Badoush area in west Mosul and arrived at Hammam al-Alil 2 this morning. “We left our village at 7 pm and had to walk for nearly six hours afraid and hungry. Having three blind children with me only made the journey more difficult,” said the elderly women in her sixties. “Thank God they didn’t see us, they would have beheaded the entire family if we were caught,” her eldest son Usama added.
Hammam al-Alil, about 25 kilometres south of Mosul, is the transit site where thousands of families who’ve fled conflict in West Mosul are sent for final security clearance. The site, including an adjacent government camp, is full and many families have moved to other camps and areas east of Mosul where there is more space. The new camp, Hammam al-Alil 2 will mean new arrivals can be hosted closer to their areas of origin.
UNHCR’s Iraq Representative, Bruno Geddo, said: “Hammam al-Alil 2 camp has opened as the number of people fleeing West Mosul continues to increase. Up to half a million people are thought to remain in the western sector of the city and we fear that there could yet be more large outflows of people fleeing Mosul. We are working around the clock to prepare more camps and have more shelters available for families who arrive exhausted, hungry, thirsty and often traumatised”.
According to government figures, cumulatively, more than 400,000 people have been displaced from Mosul and surrounding areas since October, when the military offensive began, including 282,000 individuals displaced from western Mosul since mid-February. An estimated 91,000 people have since returned to their areas of origin. Families who have fled western Mosul speak of worsening conditions as fighting has intensified, with extreme shortages of food, fuel and water. Hammam al-Alil 2 is one of 11 camps UNHCR has built in order to respond to the large-scale displacement from Mosul and surrounding areas. Two other sites are under construction: one, Hasansham U2, should open in mid-April.
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