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Aid Group:Iraq Needs Medical Assistance03/23 06:07

   BAGHDAD (AP) -- A leading international relief organization has appealed for 
more medical assistance to cope with the increasing numbers of civilians 
fleeing the intensified fighting between Iraqi government forces and the 
Islamic State group in western Mosul.

   Backed by U.S.-led international coalition, Iraqi forces launched an 
operation in February to drive IS from the western half of Iraq's 
second-largest city, after declaring eastern Mosul "fully liberated" the 
previous month. The city is divided by the Tigris River into a western and 
eastern half and the entire operation to liberate Mosul of the extremists began 
last October.

   But unlike the eastern side, the flow of civilians from the western half has 
been bigger, given the densely populated areas and intensified house-by-house 
fighting in old alleys.

   In a statement issued late Wednesday, Doctors Without Borders, also known by 
its French acronym MSF, put the number of civilians fleeing western Mosul in 
"tens of thousands." MSF said many of those who escaped had bullet wounds or 
have suffered blasts and shells injuries.

   It depicted a grim picture of a lack in medical resources and the inability 
of ambulances to cope with the number of trauma victims and the long distances 
needed to transfer patients outside the city for further treatment.

   "The need for emergency medical care has risen drastically," said Dr. 
Isabelle Defourny, MSF director of operations. "We have teams working around 
the clock treating men, women and children injured by bullets, blasts and 
shells. Other life-threatening emergencies also need a rapid medical response, 
such as for pregnant women in need of a C-section."

   MSF medical teams in a field trauma hospital, set up when the new push in 
western Mosul began, have received more than 915 patients, according to the 
statement. Of those, 763 suffered war-related trauma, 190 of whom needed urgent 
lifesaving surgery.

   More than half of the wounded were women or children under the age of 15, it 
said.

   "The situation is really intense," said an MSF surgeon, Dr. Reginald 
Moreels. "Every case we receive in the operating theater is severe, and almost 
every day we have to deal with mass casualties."

   "They are all putting their life at risk to flee a city under siege," he 
added.

   Citing accounts from those who fled western Mosul, MSF said residents still 
trapped in their houses are enduing lack of infant formula, food and clean 
water, and warned that conditions "are expected to worsen now that supply 
routes to the area have been cut off."

   The aid group added that its teams have started to see children from western 
Mosul with severe malnutrition.

   Ahmed Sami, a spokesman for MSF-Iraq, said Thursday that the overall number 
of wounded from western Mosul could be much higher since the aid group only 
reported those it treated.

   Among those who safely reached the government-controlled area was Alaa Saad 
Abdul-Rahman, a 27-year old father of two who decided to flee with his extended 
family when the fighting intensified in their Risala neighborhood.

   The family used a hole in a back wall of a neighbor's house that IS 
militants had used to get to the back street.

   "We fled through that hole" once IS fighters had retreated from the area, he 
told The Associated Press. "We started walking as clashes were still underway."

   While making their getaway, the family saw "an old woman gunned down in 
front of us," Abdul-Rahman said. "Some started to scream and cry. ... I didn't 
know what to do, whether to run with my kids or stay with my mother and wife."

   He described the long hours on that journey as "very scary."

   "We were expecting death at any moment," Abdul-Rahman said, speaking to the 
AP from a relative's house in the government-controlled neighborhood of Tell 
al-Ruman inside Mosul.

   When they reached safety, he said he burst into tears.


(KA)

 
 
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