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FAIRFIELD, Conn. (January 30, 2017) — An estimated 350,000 children are trapped in siege-like conditions under ISIS control in western Mosul, Iraq, risking summary execution by militants if they try to flee, as Iraqi and coalition forces look set to cross the Tigris River and advance deeper into the city.
The civilians that remain are at extreme risk from the devastating impact of artillery and other explosive weapons if they are deployed in the narrow and more densely-packed streets of the western districts, Save the Children is warning.
The humanitarian organization is calling on Iraqi forces and their allies, including the US and UK, to take every possible precaution to minimize the risk to civilians and ensure that children and their families have safe routes to flee as soon as possible.
More than three months into the Mosul offensive, the humanitarian crisis inside western sections of the city is reported to be increasingly desperate. An estimated 750,000 civilians, nearly half of them children, are out of reach of aid agencies and running out of food, water and basic supplies like baby diapers.
Trade routes to west Mosul have been cut off for months and bridges connecting the newly recaptured areas of the east to the districts of the west have been destroyed. There are currently no safe routes out for residents in the parts of the city still under ISIS control.
"I talked to my family in West Mosul, they are staying inside and don’t have anything to eat or drink," Mahmoud, a medic living in a newly recaptured area of eastern Mosul, told Save the Children. "No one is able to get the children anything – there’s no food or milk for babies. The markets are empty and the supplies they stockpiled have almost run out."
"There’s a huge risk for families trying to flee – if ISIS see a family trying to escape, they kill them on the spot. I tried to get my family out and agreed with a smuggler to bring them here, but he opted out because he saw a family of nine killed in front of his eyes," Mahmoud added.
"Children are trapped with nowhere to escape. Civilians have so far made up nearly half of all casualties in the conflict, but in the narrow and densely populated old city streets they are at even greater risk as fighting intensifies," said Maurizio Crivallero, Save the Children’s Iraq Country Director.
"To a child it doesn’t matter where the bombs come from — it’s where they land that matters. The impact of explosive weapons in west Mosul is likely to be deadly and indiscriminate. We must ensure that every effort humanly possible is made to protect children and their families from harm.
"Once families have made it out, we can reach them with life-saving aid and start helping children to rebuild their lives after more than two years under ISIS rule. But right now, hundreds of thousands of children remain trapped in West Mosul in a situation which grows more dangerous by the day."
Save the Children is providing emergency psychological support to children who manage to escape Mosul and other ISIS-held areas. The humanitarian organization is also providing emergency supplies and helping to restore water and education services to newly recaptured areas to the south of the city, including in the town of Hammam al-Alil about 15 miles south of Mosul.
Save the Children gives children in the United States and around the world a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We invest in childhood — every day, in times of crisis and for our future. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.