Living under the horrors of ISIL, families continue to flee from West Mosul. As they arrive at the transit zone in Hamam al-Alil, they speak of extreme shortages of food, medicines, water, and the fear of being shot while escaping.
“We ran out of food and were left with ground wheat and the skins of the wheat we had stocked earlier,” Um Omar, said, adding that towards the end their meals consisted of boiled hay.
Another woman surrounded by her tired and restless children said she knew of families who were now cutting grass and wild plants they can find for food.
Nearly 85,000 children are still trapped as a result of the offensive to retake Mosul, and water supplies in the camps for the displaced are “stretched to the limits,” according to UNICEF.
But despite the hardships, the long walk to safety, the fear and hunger, for the many who arrive at Hamam al-Alil, it is as if they have been reborn again.
The new mantra or popular catch phrase amongst Iraqi internally displaced persons (IDPs) who succeed in escaping ISIL has become “Thank God, we are reborn again.” Not all, however, are as lucky.
In IOM’s field hospital located in Hamam al-Alil, young Abdul Rahman sobbed his heart out as he recounted the day his house came under ISIL mortar attack killing his elder brother and severely injuring his leg.
“I am afraid…” the skeletal 11-year old sobbed quietly from his bed at the field hospital. “I lost my leg,” he cried. “I wont be able to run or play football anymore.”
“My brother was sitting next to me, then the house came down on us and he was killed,” Abdul Rahman recounted, as he lay in bed with his right leg, amputated to a stump, just above the knee.
Unable to leave the house due to the hail of mortars being fired by ISIL on their neighbourhood that day, Abdul’s brother Ahmad (22) and a father of an 8-month-old baby, bled for four hours from his injuries before he eventually died.
Abdul’s father eventually managed to carry his injured young son Abdul Rahman and move him to another location. It took five days and five different locations before the young boy was eventually brought to IOM and Qatar’s Red Crescent field hospital where he could receive treatment.
By the time he arrived at IOM’s field hospital, despite the desperate efforts by surgeons to save his leg, the limb tissues to his severed arteries were dead and young Abdul Rahman’s leg had to be amputated.
As the Iraqi military forces close in on the Old City and the last remaining neighbourhoods, reports from the injured and escapees suggest that ISIL is tightening, what remains of its grip against the civilians.
“They are calling out from the mosque minarets, warning that they will shoot the children if families attempt to escape,” Um Ahmad said.
“They are even booby trapping our front doors to prevent us from escaping,” said Hassan who lay in one of IOM’s hospital beds recovering from injuries to his legs.
Unbeknown to him, ISIL had laid explosives at the entrance of his house. As stepped out to escape the explosives went off.
In another bed Saadoun stood vigilant moving from one bed to another checking on his two young boys: Qaws, a 3-year-old injured in the leg and Yassin 7, who was injured in the head.
Back in the Hamam al-Alil camp, where the family of seven members are crammed with relatives in a tent, he left three other children who are also injured. A bomb aimed at their neighbour’s house, which ISIL was occupying with the family as human shields, brought down his own house over their heads.
His five children were all injured, and his neighbours killed including a grandmother and two children. “I couldn’t dig out my neighbours from under the rubble,” Saadoun lamented sadly.
Some 12,500 people have been transferred from frontline areas to hospitals for trauma injuries treatment as of 20 May according to OCHA; including 6,369 people from West Mosul alone.