The Iraqi government has constructed a refugee camp outside Mosul in preparation for an exodus of people from the west of the city where the U.S.-backed Iraqi forces are battling Islamic State (ISIS) militants to recapture the remaining part of the jihadists’ stronghold.
Set up in Hammam al-Alil, a town about 15 km (10 miles) south of Mosul, the camp, which has 4,000 tents, has been constructed by Iraq’s Ministry of Migration and Displacement in coordination with the government of Nineveh province and can host up to 24,000 people.
Farouq Qurqa, an engineer working at the site said on Sunday (February 19) the construction of the camp took 45 days.
“The camp was constructed in order to save people who will be displaced from the western side of Nineveh from the cold weather. The camp is supplied with all the necessary services and is designed to protect people from rain and wet weather. The tents are supplied with showers and toilets and electricity,” Qurqa said.
Up to 400,000 civilians could be displaced by the offensive as residents of western Mosul suffer food and fuel shortages and markets are closed, United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande told Reuters on Saturday (February 18).
ISIS militants are essentially under siege in western Mosul, along with an estimated 650,000 civilians, after they were forced out of the eastern part of the city in the first phase of an offensive that concluded last month, after 100 days of fighting.
About 160,000 civilians have been displaced since the start of the offensive in October, U.N. officials say. Medical and humanitarian agencies estimate the total number of dead and wounded – both civilian and military – at several thousand.