From the Field

Iraq crisis, Mosul offensive: Facts, FAQs, and how to help

Oumayma and her son Ali fled with their family after their home town in Iraq was hit by bombs. (©2015 World Vision, Jo Currie)

Iraq has declared victory in the fight to retake Mosul, the nation’s second-largest city, from ISIL. The battle to regain the former ISIL stronghold started in October 2016.

“While some people see this as the end of a crisis, the work is really just beginning,” says Ian Dawes, World Vision’s manager for the Iraq humanitarian response. “The lives of children and their families have been torn apart after years of ISIL rule and months of fighting to retake the city. The level of destruction is immense.”

More than 400,000 people are currently displaced from Mosul because of the fighting. World Vision and other humanitarian agencies are providing aid for civilians who fled the conflict.

Interested in updated stories, images, and videos of people on the front lines of Iraq’s humanitarian crisis?

Since mid-2014, the people of Iraq have been caught up in a resurgence of violence. The conflict has exacerbated the already dire humanitarian situation stemming from Syria’s five-year civil conflict.

Here’s what you should know about the humanitarian needs of people affected by the conflict in Iraq and the battle to retake Mosul.


Fast fact on Mosul and conflict in Iraq:

  • 3.4 million people displaced within the country
  • 11 million people in need out of a population of 38 million
  • More than 900,000 people are displaced from Mosul and surrounding villages; 300,000 live in camps nearby
  • About 240,000 Syrian refugees are in the Kurdish Region of Iraq, creating additional strain among host communities with limited resources
  • Key needs: clean water, sanitation, food, shelter, essential items to help face winter, healthcare, education, and emotional support


What happened in Iraq?

After two years of fighting, 3.4 million people are displaced within the country. About half of them settled in camps for internally displaced people, within host communities, or in churches in the Kurdish Region of Iraq. Some are beginning to return to their home communities as the Iraqi government gains control of more territory.

Read how Hada’s family escaped on foot through mined fields and about their life in a camp for displaced people.

Right now, about 11 million Iraqis need some kind of assistance.

Little boy in Iraq holding pencils
Ali, 3, from Syria, shows off new pencils and a notebook at the camp where his family lives in the Kurdish Region of Iraq. (©2015 World Vision/photo by Steve Jeter)


How has the Iraqi conflict affected children?

Children who fled Mosul arrived at camps petrified, struggling to express themselves, and in some cases too terrified to speak, say World Vision staff based just outside of the city.

Their physical and mental health has been badly affected by two years living under a brutal occupation and then facing landmines, snipers, and fighters when they fled.

Many children are forced to flee with only the clothes they have on. They are out of school and vulnerable to violence and health issues due to unstable and unhygienic living conditions.


What are Iraqi’s greatest needs? 

People displaced by conflict typically need clean water, food, shelter, hygiene supplies, and basic household supplies like mattresses and blankets. They also will have a range of healthcare needs, including chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, and issues associated with poverty like malnutrition, exposure, cholera, or diarrhea.

Children and adults who have experienced the unspeakable horrors of war  need long-term help coping with their experiences.

“Many children have been stuck in their homes while bombings, sniper fire or chaos ruled around them. Others have witnessed the death of family members,” says Aaron Moore, World Vision’s programs manager in northern Iraq.


How is World Vision bringing hope to Iraq?

World Vision began responding to the current crisis in Iraq in August 2014. Our staff have served more than 1 million people in the Iraq with:

  • Access to clean drinking water
  • Health services
  • Education programs, including assistance to rebuild school in Mosul and support to teachers
  • Child protection services
  • Food provisions
  • Food vouchers
  • Cash (for most urgent needs)

We work with the church in Iraq, providing food vouchers to people who fled Mosul in August 2014 and are living in Christian camps. We have assisted these camps with generators and water systems. We’ve also created spaces for children to play volleyball, basketball, and on swing sets.

Some of our work focuses on the church. However, our overall aid efforts focus on helping the most vulnerable people, regardless of their religion, race, or gender.

World Vision’s youth empowerment and family relations programs help families rebuild their lives.


Explore our unique, interactive Iraq story map

Learn about some important places from the Bible and their relation to people and cities caught up in the current crisis in Iraq.

Iraq story map screenshot: Mosul conflict, World Vision response


What is World Vision’s history in Iraq?

World Vision began working in Iraq in the 1990s. Between April 2003 and September 2004, our staff focused efforts on rehabilitating schools and rural water and sanitation systems. We also provided medical supplies to clinics and hospitals, and supported displaced families with clothing, food, hygiene kits, blankets and mattresses, and cooking sets, reaching about 598,000 people in all.


How you can help

  • Help World Vision meet the most urgent needs of Syrian and Iraqi children.
  • Pray for children, families, and humanitarian workers in Iraq.
  • Engage your church by hosting a “Refugee Sunday.”
  • Provide emergency aid to displaced children and families.



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