Caritas Czech Republic steps up humanitarian aid to the people of Mosul

Displaced Iraqis gather to buy food and supplies from vendors outside Chamakor camp, east of Mosul, March 12, 2017, photo: CTK

The Catholic charity Caritas Czech Republic has actively cooperated with other humanitarian organizations to bring relief to the war-torn city of Mosul. Now it is opening its first branch in the Iraqi city in order to be able to offer broader support to its newly liberated neighborhoods. I spoke to Benjamin Mlýnek of Caritas about the organization’s priorities there in the coming weeks and months.

Displaced Iraqis gather to buy food and supplies from vendors outside Chamakor camp,  east of Mosul,  March 12,  2017,  photo: CTK
“The main support provided will be food packages as part of what is called a rapid response mechanism. There will be dry food, biscuits, bottled water, basically things people can eat right away, something they do not have to cook. These aid packages are targeted to places that were recently liberated. Then there is another kind of support for the neighborhoods that were liberated some time ago and there we aim to provide a voucher system. Selected families will receive vouchers and then they can go to those shops which are already open and exchange them for food. That system is more sustainable, because in this way we are also supporting the reestablishment of the local market.”

What is the present situation of the people you are helping?

“Most of the families had to flee when the fighting started and they left their homes with one suitcase or barely anything and there were a lot of checkpoints and a lot of circumstances where they lost their belongings. Now they are returning to their homes and if they are lucky enough to find the building standing their home has usually been looted and so there is nothing to eat, usually water supplies have been cut off and there is no access to the market. These people have little or no money and cannot afford to purchase the very expensive food that one can get on the market there nowadays. That is why food has to be delivered from outside.”

To what extent are these newly-liberated parts of the city functioning now?

“In Eastern Mosul you could say that the city is functioning somehow –there are shops open, the streets are full of cars, there are traffic jams, at first glance it looks like a normal city. However there are still huge infrastructure challenges, often there are power cuts lasting the whole day, not many houses are connected, the whole infrastructure has to be rebuilt.”

What about health care? Do people have access to health care?

Iraqi civilians walk on the streets of a recently liberated neighborhood in western Mosul,  March 13,  2017,  photo: CTK
“It depends on the neighborhood. In some places primary health care centers are being renovated, in others not. So it depends on the activities of NGOs and the government how quickly they are able to reestablish these health care services. Let us say that at this moment access to primary health care is challenging.”

So you have long-term as well as short-term plans in Mosul?

“Now we are primarily thinking about the first six months during which the newly liberated territories should start “early recovery”. During that period we want to primarily focus on the reestablishment of the local market because it is essential for the population in urban areas to get access to food. That is our primary objective in the “early recovery” phase. Later on there will be need to help with establishing livelihoods because the people there will need to get the opportunity to generate an income. So for that we aim to introduce projects which will support the establishment of small businesses or support already existing businesses in expanding their capacity and creating new jobs.”