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11 Feb, 2019 08:27

‘We are like the living dead’: Citizens of Mosul in despair 1.5 years after liberation from ISIS

‘We are like the living dead’: Citizens of Mosul in despair 1.5 years after liberation from ISIS

Chaos and misery – that’s what life in Mosul is like more than 1.5 years after Iraqi forces and the US-led coalition staged one of the deadliest battles in decades to liberate the city from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS).

A year and a half since its “liberation” by the US-backed Iraqi forces, the city still lies in ruins. Nine hospitals out of 13 in Mosul are still damaged or destroyed and are unable to lend any kind of medical assistance, while 4 million tons of rubble scattered around the city still need to be cleared, Tom Peyre-Costa, a Norwegian refugee center media coordinator, who saw the situation on the ground firsthand, told RT. 

What was once Iraq’s second-largest city and home to millions was reduced to ash in July 2017, when the US-led coalition dropped bombs and recaptured it from IS. More than 10,000 civilians are estimated to have been killed in the battle. Thousands of dead bodies are still buried under the rubble amid the lack of recovery crews and equipment.

“Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are still displaced… and are unable to return to their homes for the simple reason that they do not have a home to go back to,” TPeyre-Costa said. His words were confirmed by locals, who complained about the lack of basic infrastructure.

“You can’t even imagine how difficult it is – no hospitals, no schools, no teachers. We are like the living dead. We have a cemetery over there, but here it’s a cemetery for the living. Pot holes are everywhere, there are still corpses everywhere and if anyone brings humanitarian aid here, the local officials just steal it, they are all corrupt,” a Mosul resident told RT.

There’s no reconstruction here, all their reconstruction efforts are just ink on paper.

The Iraqi authorities are “clearly” not doing enough to help the city – locals have to rebuild their houses “with their bare hands” while being exposed to various unexploded ordnance, according to Peyre-Costa. The resources that have been allocated by the authorities to the reconstruction of the city amount to less than one-third of what is really needed for just one year, he said.

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Locals say fraud and corruption are halting the process. Peyre-Costa could not confirm these allegations but said that “the government has allocated too little money” and that “Iraqis – both the displaced and the returnees – do not get enough support both from the international community and the Iraqi authorities.”

Another problem plaguing many Mosul residents is that they have to endure harsh winter conditions in temporary camps, which “were not designed to be permanent structures.”

“The life expectancy of a tent is not supposed to exceed 6 months. In some camps, they have not been replaced for more than 2 years now,” Peyre-Costa said, adding that many people fell victim to the low winter temperatures and severe flooding. However, the authorities seem to be in no rush to resettle them to safer places.

There are fears that IS could return to the city and use the corruption and chaos to re-emerge. The US-led coalition spent billions of dollars when it bombed Mosul, but when it was done, it didn’t cash out on rebuilding.

“There are no basic services in the city, no jobs – it’s terrible,” one local resident said. “We’re here battling all the hardships. We now regret that we ever came back.”

Meanwhile, nearly 2 million Iraqis remain displaced, according to UN estimates. Nearly 700,000 of them are from Mosul.

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