As increased military action turns towards the Iraqi city of Mosul, CARE warns that over 46,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women could be affected by the fighting, with many of them forced to flee under extreme risks. According to the United Nations, a total of 1.2 million people in Mosul could be facing increased violence, destruction and the lack of basic supplies.
CARE and other organizations are preparing for a potential mass influx of displaced people into Northern Iraq. “At the moment, we don’t know how many people would flee and when, and we don’t know if they will come in a trickle fashion or in a wave. Yet what we can say is that the humanitarian impact would be tremendously high should the fight for Mosul intensify. And among those mostly affected would be pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, given their and their babies’ special needs for nutrition and medical attention”, says John Watt, CARE’s representative in Northern Iraq. The current and ongoing conflict has already left many people in Mosul vulnerable and communities under siege struggle to survive every day. “In addition to the basic humanitarian needs, many people will likely need psychosocial support, given the continued violence they had to experience over the past years.”
CARE is currently prepositioning bottled water and other relief supplies. “Imagine the stress, trauma and physical strain pregnant and breastfeeding women would experience if they have to walk for hours or even days to reach the safe havens of Northern Iraq, where they will first arrive in screening areas and then settle in camps or spontaneous settlements”, Watt continues. In addition, CARE is providing equipment and nutrition supplements for maternal health clinics in Northern Iraq, bolstering their capacity to treat and support pregnant women from Mosul and other areas.
Shelter from the elements, relief supplies for hygiene and public health, waste disposal and solid waste management are areas where CARE can provide humanitarian support for displaced women and other vulnerable groups such as handicapped, injured, elderly people without support from their families and unaccompanied minors.
“We could have the best contingency plan and the best teams in place but if we have no money, we wouldn’t be able to provide assistance on a large scale. CARE is therefore urgently seeking funding to ensure that we are properly prepared and able to react quickly when people pass the front line which rings Mosul. We can’t just start to react when it is too late. We know from experience that prepositioning goods and equipment ready for such a fast response has proven to save lives and reduces the levels of suffering for people that have to flee conflicts and wars.”, Watt urges.