The following article was originally published in Rudaw on November 12, 2016.
DIBAGA CAMP, Kurdistan Region – Despite challenges, the humanitarian response to the Mosul offensive impressed France’s representative to the Kurdistan Region in a recent visit to an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp.
“I’m really impressed by the solidarity of the Kurdish people and I am quite impressed by the good coordination on the battlefield between the Iraqi and Kurdish forces which is quite new and which of course will lead to the success of the operation,” Dominique Mas, France’s Consul General in the Kurdistan Region, told Rudaw at Dibaga IDP camp on Wednesday.
During Mas’ visit to Dibaga, he expressed his appreciation to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Iraqi government for how they have handled the influx of IDPs coming from Mosul as the military operation is in its third week.
“We knew that we would get a lot of displaced people,” he added. “The surprise is that we got less displaced people than expected. [That] doesn’t mean that in the coming weeks we may get more. I was in a big surprise by the capacity of the Kurdish government to handle the situation because it is not an easy situation.”
While acknowledging the challenges that remain, the French official remarked how both the Kurdish and Iraqi governments have improved in their humanitarian response having learned harsh lessons from when ISIS first swept into Iraq in 2014.
“Our humanitarian system is improving in order to get people out of the towns in order to receive them,” Mas said. “Of course we have a lot of security concerns. This has been handled quite well by the Iraqi and Kurdish forces. So far, things seem to go more smoothly, to go normally.”
“Of course, that doesn’t mean that people are very happy. They are suffering. People here are really suffering. We have a lot of pregnant women. It might be difficult for them. I’m not saying it is an ideal situation. At least we still know there are things to be done.”
Camps across the region are expected to continue to receive displaced people as Iraqi forces continue to push into heavily populated Mosul city, with humanitarian organizations still scrambling to find space to accommodate the hundreds of thousands who are expected to flee the fighting.
“We have more tents than land to put them on. The land issue is full of problems,” Bruno Geddo, UNHCR representative to Iraq, told Rudaw in late October just as the military operation was commencing.
“The major challenge is that we have received a lot of families since the beginning of the operation and we have no more spaces from them,” Ahmed Abdul, director of Dibaga explained to Rudaw on Wednesday, echoing the same sentiment that has plagued officials since the operation began.
“The big challenge is the more people, more individuals, more families with a limited space with a limited support from all organizations,” Mas said. “They need everything. The winter is already here.”
Such challenges include where to place single people who arrive without families since most tents are reserved for larger groups. One man, a recent arrival to Dibaga, told Rudaw that he was forced to sleep outside in the open due to a lack of space.
“From our side we are doing our best to coordinate with the government, with the MOMD Ministry of displacement and migration,” Abdul said in response to the issue.
“Yesterday, I slept over here,” said the man who chose to use the pseudonym George. He pointed to a spot up against the wall of a building facing the camp’s main road.
“It was very freezing,” he said. “There aren’t any places for singles. I don’t think there is any place they will give us. I was hoping someone would help us with a tent.”
George was an interpreter for the United States Army during the Iraq War. He has family in Hawija, southwest of Kirkuk, still under ISIS control.
As the operation continues, France is committed to supporting both the KRG and the Iraqi government militarily, diplomatically and in the humanitarian effort as well, Mas said.
“They need this support from all the international community,” he said. “They are fighting and they are playing an important role for the international community as far as international security is concerned.”
Access the article above in Rudaw.