Extreme levels of conflict and violence in the besieged city of Mosul, Iraq — including airstrikes, bombardment, suicide attacks and gunshots — are taking a devastating toll on residents of the embattled Old City, says the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
In less than two weeks since officially opening its hospital in west Mosul, one of only two hospitals functioning in this part of the city, MSF has treated over 100 patients for war-related injuries, including more than 25 children and 20 women. However, MSF fears that only a small fraction of residents are able to access medical assistance in time and that many are dying on the battlefield.
“Every day, our teams are treating patients from the Old City, many of whom are women and children,” says Stephanie Remion, MSF Emergency Coordinator for west Mosul. “The stories of hardship our patients tell us are impossible to put into words. We see patients with war-related injuries ranging from shrapnel wounds, gunshots and blast injuries to burns and broken bones from collapsing structures. Despite the tremendous efforts undertaken by staff in front line trauma stabilization points and by ambulance drivers, the numbers of patients we are receiving are comparatively low relative to the thousands of residents thought to be trapped in the conflict zone. Our greatest fear is that many of the most urgent cases are dying on the battlefield, unable to access life-saving medical assistance.”
War-wounded women and children
When the hospital, located approximately three to four kilometres from the front line, officially opened on June 23, MSF teams responded to a mass casualty incident in which 18 patients were treated, one in life-threatening condition and seven who were at risk of dying without medical treatment. On July 1, teams responded to another spike of more than 20 war-wounded patients, most of whom were women and children. On a daily basis, MSF teams continue to receive patients with a range of war-related injuries. Of the more than 100 patients MSF has treated for war injuries in west Mosul, 13 patients were received with immediately life-threatening injuries and over 50 were at risk of dying without medical treatment.
Life has become a daily struggle for survival for the residents still trapped in the Old City, according to patient testimonies received by MSF.
- 'I buried my grandchildren in the garden': Harrowing testimonies from patients who fled Mosul's Old City
'The explosions were terrifying and we were starving'
“My granddaughter died of starvation and I also had to put my grandson in the grave. Two of them; one starved to death and the other was hit by a mortar. I put them in a grave together… I buried them in the garden,” an elderly woman told MSF after arriving to the hospital. “We have gone three days without water. The water we drank [in the Old City] was not good, we had diarrhea whenever we drank it … the sounds of explosions were terrifying and we were starving.”
“Every day people were dying because of the shelling and airstrikes. We don’t know where it was coming from. I lost almost half of my weight. I used to be 90 kg, now I am 50 kg,” a 74-year-old woman who recently escaped from the Old City told MSF. “We tried to convince the children to eat tomato paste. We would boil flour in water… the rice we had was so dirty even animals could not eat it.”