In one of the deadliest urban battles since World War II, the war against Islamic State in Mosul took a heavy toll on the residents of Iraq’s second largest city. Thousands of civilians endured months of trauma, suffering and fear, held hostage by the battle between ISIS militants and Iraqi Security Forces backed by US-led coalition forces.
As Iraqi troops pushed forward through the densely populated streets of western Mosul’s ancient quarter in the summer of 2017, many civilians escaped in a state of critical malnutrition after surviving months without enough food and water. Others suffered from old and infected wounds that had been left untreated due to lack of access to medical assistance. All appeared in a state of deep psychological trauma as a result of their ordeal.
With little more than a few makeshift hospital beds set up inside abandoned buildings, and only the most basic medical resources, medics from international medical organisations Global Response Management and Academy of Emergency Medicine, together with their colleagues in the Iraqi Armed Forces, worked day and night to provide lifesaving emergency treatment to sick and injured civilians and military personnel. As Iraqi forces gained ground, the medics moved forward, setting up makeshift field clinics – or trauma stabilization points as they referred to them – as close as possible to the frontline.
As casualties arrived at the clinic, a medical team leader made an immediate triage assessment of each person’s needs and injuries. After being stabilised, patients were taken to a nearby hospital for ongoing care.
Many of the patients described the brutal conditions inside the Old City where they’d survived on dirty river water and very little food. “We’ve had no food for nine months, since the city was surrounded”, explained Hadr, a 29-year-old biologist. “There is no food in the markets, only some cow meat which is very expensive. We bought rice before the city was surrounded but now it’s finished.”
Others expressed relief and joy at having escaped ISIS and the death trap of Mosul’s Old City. One young woman who arrived at the clinic with an injury to her face cried with relief to be free. “Today is our birthday,” she said,” because it’s the first day we are free.”. Her two-year-old son was killed in the fighting a day earlier.
The images below were captured between December 2016 and July 2017.
Warning: Some of the images are graphic and may be upsetting.