On a visit to the region this month, the organization met children of all ages who had suffered terrible injuries after being caught in the line of fire between the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS) and government forces, who are backed by a US-led coalition.
“Children caught in the crossfire of the brutal battle for Mosul have seen things that no one, of any age, should ever see. I met children who have not only sustained horrific wounds but have also seen their relatives and neighbours decapitated in mortar strikes, torn to shreds by car bombs or mine explosions, or crushed under the rubble of their homes,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser, who returned from a 17-day mission to northern Iraq.
“War-wounded children then find themselves in hospitals overflowing with patients, or in camps for displaced people, where dire humanitarian conditions make their physical and psychological recovery even more difficult. Many others remain trapped in areas where the fighting is raging.
There is an urgent need for the Iraqi authorities and their international partners in the battle for Mosul to set up better care, rehabilitation and protection systems for affected civilians. Looking after civilian victims, particularly the most vulnerable, should be an absolute priority - not an afterthought.”
In a hospital in Erbil, Amnesty International spoke to Umm Ashraf, who described how she and her seven children were injured when a car bomb exploded outside the house where they were sheltering in east Mosul on 13 December, burying scores of people under the rubble of several houses destroyed in the blast. Her eldest daughter, 17-year-old Shahad, lost both her eyes in the attack.
“My children saw my sister being killed in front of them; they saw our neighbour who was decapitated in the strike; they saw body parts on the ground. How can they ever recover from that?” Umm Ashraf told Amnesty International.
The rising costs of basic necessities, as well as the lack of food, fuel, medicines and clean water inside Mosul have left children at extreme risk of malnutrition, dehydration and water-borne and other diseases.
Without more efforts by the Iraqi authorities and their allies to create safe avenues for civilians to get out of conflict-affected areas of the city and to provide essential services to residents trapped under fire inside Mosul, a humanitarian catastrophe could unfold.”