Medical response in Mosul

The battle for Mosul  

The military operation to retake Mosul was the most protracted urban battle since World War II. After almost three years under the control of the Islamic State group, Mosul, a city of more than 1.5 million inhabitants, was recaptured in July 2017. More than 90% of western Mosul’s old town was destroyed in the nine-month offensive by Iraqi forces backed by the US-led coalition.

A year on from the liberation, the humanitarian crisis in Iraq continues. In Mosul, which was hit by multiple airstrikes and suffered a significant number of explosive hazard incidents during the military operation, mines and unexploded devices are a constant threat, and tens of thousands of people depend on aid for survival, with the UN reporting 8.7 million Iraqis in need of assistance in 2018.

Zaydon Jawhar is a Project Officer for Handicap International (HI) in Mosul and in April 2018 he attended RedR UK's Management and Leadership training, designed to support frontline humanitarian workers. HI have been working in Iraq since 1991 and have been providing rehabilitation services in East Mosul and in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps to the east and south of Mosul city since 2017. Zaydon explains the nature of HI’s work in Mosul:

"It is very tiring, but I am motivated by a desire to help the people of my city."

- Zaydon Jawhar

Zaydon's Story

“I volunteered as a doctor during the war of liberation then started to work as a caseworker for NGOs. I joined HI in 2018 as a project officer. Last month I was hired by the Department of Health (DoH) as a medical doctor, so I also work night shifts in the hospital for four days per week and then during the day for HI. It is very tiring, but I am motivated by a desire to help the people of my city. The most rewarding part of my job is seeing people smile again and hearing their experiences. There are so many stories that are unforgettable.

We provide physiotherapy to patients who were injured during the liberation of Mosul; amputees, people with spinal cord injuries, people who were burned. We also offer a lot of assistive devices to the patients; bandages, wheelchairs, toilet chairs, walking sticks, axillary crutches and elbow crutches. Most of the cases are people that were injured during the ISIS occupation of Mosul, but others happened during the war of liberation, and a small number of patients were injured before that in 2010.” 


Handicap International staff treating patients in Mosul, Iraq

Photo: Eilsa Fourt for Handicap International

Zaydon's Story

"Things are changing all the time here, from hour to hour many things can happen; roads can close, there could be an attack from ISIS or the military."

- Zaydon Jawhar

Security in Mosul

Although the war has ended, the security situation in Mosul remains volatile. HI reported 127 explosive hazards incidents, resulting in 186 casualties in Mosul District from 10 July 2017 to 15 April 2018. Zaydon explains what motivated him to become an aid worker and the challenges that he faces working in such an insecure environment:

"As the Project Officer for Victim Assistance project at HI I am responsible for 6 physiotherapists (PTs) in three bases; one in Qayara and two bases in east Mosul. I have been in the role for 4 months. 

I meet with the PTs to understand the challenges they face and what assistance they need, then they go out into the field to work with patients, and I stay in the office to complete reports for our partners and head office. International staff are not currently able to obtain visas for Mosul, so we are working under remote management. This means that we need to send a lot of updates to the Head Office. I also attend meetings with other NGOs and DoH, cluster meetings, as well as representing HI in front of the other donors, ECHO and with the journalists too. 

For me, stress is there all the time. I have to check for security every morning, to see if the roads are open or not. Things are changing all the time here, from hour to hour many things can happen; roads can close, there could be an attack from ISIS or the military. The safety of employees is the highest priority at HI, and as a Project Officer, I’m responsible for the PTs who are all working in the field. It’s also challenging to manage the logistics, to make sure that we have the right number of assisted devices and to correct any mistakes made by the PTs in their reports.” 

"Now I listen to my team, I learn from their experiences, it’s made me a better manager."

- Zaydon Jawhar

Effective humanitarian response

People are the key to any effective humanitarian response.  Managing people can be challenging at the best of times, but during the chaos and stress of a complex humanitarian emergency, the ability to lead a team is crucial for the success of any programme. Funded by the JTI Foundation, RedR UK’s Management and Leadership training gives participants the opportunity to explore theories and practices of good management, giving them vital communication, negotiation, team building, and conflict management skills to help manage staff in an emergency situation. Zaydon describes his experience of RedR UK training:  

I am a doctor, I graduated from medical college, so when I went on the  RedR UK course, I didn’t have high expectations, because I’ve been to a lot of training courses, but it was so much better than I expected. I’ve learned new skills, and it’s just been fantastic – it’s given me skills in handling problems, managing teams, managing time and dealing with the project managers. 

I think one of the most important things that I learned was that the manager should listen to his team. Whatever experience you have, you can always learn from other people. If you are working at a desk, but you are managing a group of people on the ground you should listen to them, they can give you a better idea of the situation and the challenges that they are facing.”

Delivered by experienced humanitarians, RedR UK’s training is tailored to the context in which it’s delivered and gives participants practical skills and knowledge that can immediately be applied to their roles. Zaydon explains the impact of the training on his work managing teams in Mosul: 

For me as a manager and for HI as an organisation, it’s vital that we know how many assisted devices we will need, that understand how the money is being spent and that we check all of the reports and attendance sheets – so the RedR UK training has helped me a lot and helped the organisation a lot in arranging the papers and filing reports. 

After the training, I started to listen to the people that I manage more. I put a half hour in the morning and the afternoon to sit with them and to hear from them if they have any challenges, if they have any new experiences they have faced, if there are any special patients, important cases, particular stories and any thoughts they have on how we can improve our work. Now I listen to my team, I learn from their experiences, it’s made me a better manager.”