Families describe their escape from Mosul: ‘We just came from the dead’

Families have been suffering appalling injuries and traumas to escape the fighting in Mosul as the number fleeing has more than tripled in the space of a week. Oxfam and other humanitarian agencies are working to ensure that the support in camps and communities keeps pace with the new arrivals. 

One woman who arrived at Hassansham camp, 50km east of Mosul, said her husband was killed and she was badly burned after an ISIS suicide bomber blew himself up outside her home in the suburb of Hai Samar. Her nine-year-old daughter was also badly burned in the attack, which she said had killed members of four other families who were taking shelter together. 

Another woman, aged 25, told Oxfam “we just came from the dead” as she arrived at the camp with her 10-day-old daughter on Monday. Describing life in Mosul, she said: “It was like a hell. A lot of our neighbors have been killed. We can't believe we are safe now.” 

At least 3,362 families have been displaced by the fighting to recapture Mosul in the last week, compared with 875 families in the previous week. In total, almost 7,000 families or nearly 42,000 people have fled since the Mosul offensive began on 17 October, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). 

Convoys of buses and trucks full of families are arriving at the UN-run camp at Hassansham every day. People are fleeing with only a few belongings having risked their lives to escape bombing and sniper fire. Hassansham has tents for 1,950 families and is almost full and another camp near Qayarrah is already at full capacity. 

Oxfam and other humanitarian agencies are working round the clock to put up tents and water facilities and to treat the sick and injured. It is already getting cold at night and winter will bring rain and the risk of waterborne diseases in the camp. Oxfam has installed tanks for clean water and is preparing to distribute blankets, solar lamps, hygiene kits and other vital aid. 

Andres Gonzalez, Oxfam’s country director in Iraq, said: “People are escaping Mosul with their lives but leaving behind loved ones and almost everything they own. The race is now on to provide decent shelter, clean water and warmth before the winter sets in. Oxfam and other agencies are working round the clock to ensure that the preparations keep pace with the increasing arrivals.” 

Almost one in five families escaping Mosul city and surrounding areas are taking shelter in communities recaptured from ISIS where people are already suffering from shortages of food, clean water, fuel and medicine. 

Notes to editors

1. View and download high-resolution photos of people arriving at Hassansham camp here: http://wordsandpictures.oxfam.org.uk/pages/search.php?search=%21collection31350&k=1d7dfa9e48

2. According to the IOM, an extra 875 families fled fighting in the week from 28 October to 3 November bringing the total to 3,636 families. Since then, a further 3,362 families have fled bringing the total to 6,998 families as of 9 November. Of these, 71% are based in camps, 19% in private homes and other buildings in host communities, and 8% in informal shelter such as farm buildings outside communities. 

3. Hassansham is a UN-run camp for 1,950 families or 11,700 people around 50km east of Mosul. Since last Friday, hundreds of families have been arriving each day from Mosul and surrounding areas. Oxfam is providing clean water and maintaining toilet blocks in the camp. We will soon be providing mosquito nets, solar lamps, blankets, tarpaulins, jerry cans, hygiene kits, basins and buckets. Oxfam is also providing clean water for some 17,500 people in the Qayarrah area to the south of Mosul. 

4. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, displaced families have been accommodated in Hassansham, Jeddah, Zelikan camps so far. Of these, Jeddah is full and Hassansham is almost full. Space remains for around 6,800 families or 41,000 people across seven ‘ready to receive’ camps, while spaces for a further 453,000 people are under construction or planned. 

Contact information

 In Iraq: Kai Tabacek ktabacek1@oxfam.org.uk | +964 (0)771 478 6470 | +44 (0)7584 264 077

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Read more about Oxfam's work in Iraq