I am a Romanian national but was living in Erbil in Iraq during the first ISIS attacks of July and August 2014, when Mosul was taken. This is when Erbil was completely flooded with people running from the atrocities of IS. A city of 1.5million people overnight became a city of more than 2 million. People were sleeping everywhere: in parks, in mosques, churches, schools and unfinished buildings. I saw huge queues for food and water and I saw the first couple of days, weeks and months of this crisis.
At the start of the crisis, the provision of assistance seemed extremely chaotic, with local people providing food and volunteers and doctors providing aid. As the months unfolded, I saw less and less people occupying public spaces. In the next couple of months, the bigger buildings were also evacuated, and people moved to camps as they began to become displaced. Today many people still remain in small, unfinished buildings.
Even though Erbil itself was not struck by a disaster, receiving this huge influx of people put a big burden on the city. The electricity was cut off every day for a long time (when outside temperatures were of 48-50°C), water shortages occurred across the city and roads were overrun with traffic.
Seeing this crisis unfold from its first day, made me ask myself questions regarding the huge effort and logistics behind aid, and it made me wonder about how aid is managed and coordinated.
A year later, I was given the chance to work for Welthungerhilfe, an INGO, in the same region, mostly in recovery and rehabilitation projects helping those displaced by conflict in Mosul. I was also briefly involved in an emergency project aimed at assisting Internally Displaced People (IDPs) fleeing Mosul (the second largest city in Iraq) and providing them with Basic Emergency Shelter Kits.
For this project, we established distribution points on several routes leading from Mosul to nearby villages and to established camps and screening centres for displaced people. This is how I have come to wonder what would have happened if we were to intervene in the city itself? What would have the challenges been? Who would we have had to liaise with? What would have been the first steps to take in order to assist people?