The UN refugee agency UNHCR this week opened a new camp in northern Iraq to shelter the increasing number of Iraqi families fleeing the fighting in western Mosul, UNHCR said on Friday. Agency spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told a press briefing in Geneva, Friday that the camp, the 12th of its kind in response to the ongoing Mosul emergency, was located around 60 km west of Mosul along the highway to Erbil.
He said that as of Friday, the new site sheltered nearly 500 children, women and men — 96 families in total. It has a capacity to accommodate more than 9,000 people when fully occupied. Less than four weeks ago, UNHCR opened a refugee camp with a capacity for 30,000 people, which is now almost full.
According to UNHCR, the risk to people fleeing Mosul is “very great”. Families arriving from Mosul reported heavy bombing and fighting. They told UNHCR there were no basic services in the city: no food, no water and no fuel. “Some families told UNHCR they had been living on one meal a day: often just bread, or flour and water, sometimes supplemented with tomato paste,” Mahecic said.
He added that six months into the Mosul offensive, UNHCR remained concerned about the continuing massive displacement. “Despite enormous risks, the number of people fleeing Mosul showed no sign of slowing down,” he told reporters.
According to Iraqi authorities, more than 630,000 people have been displaced from Mosul and surrounding areas since October 2016, when the military operation began. This includes more than 434,000 displaced from western Mosul since mid-February of this year.