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Mosul crisis - eye on the ground


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As the crisis in Mosul continues, Australian Red Cross aid worker Joe Cropp has joined the international relief effort. He'll be sharing what he sees.

About Joe

Joe Cropp is a communications specialist who has completed humanitarian missions in Iraq, Pakistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Vietnam and the Philippines. He is currently reporting on Red Cross Red Crescent work in Iraq.

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Meet the former refugee behind the Mosul relief effort

Monday 15th November 2016
Rashawan greets Zenaba, newly arrived at the camp with her children. Photo: ICRS/Safin Ahmed

I remember what worked well, what made the most difference. Our humanity brings us together; administration makes it work.

Walking down a line of tents with Rashawan is like walking through a village.

The Iraqi Red Crescent disaster management coordinator seems to know everyone in the relief camp east of Mosul. He waves hello to people, addressing them by name, asking what they need most.

Rashawan's compassion comes from his own experience. Forced to flee Erbil more than 20 years ago, he lived for some time in the Netherlands as a refugee. Now he's back, helping others in similar circumstances find safety.

I asked Rashawan to tell me why. Here's his story.

Every kid deserves playtime

Monday 7th November 2016

There is so much sadness in the camps around Mosul.

People arrive totally exhausted, with heart-wrenching accounts of their experiences. There are moments of utter grief, which I have trouble writing about. This is mixed with a stoic determination, a sense of relief, and uncertainty about what will happen next.


Then there are moments like this, when trained Iraqi Red Crescent staff and volunteers start to heal the invisible wounds: whether through a quiet, personal conversation or a simple game with children who have seen much sadness.

You can't see it outside the frame, but it is a moment that spreads out like a wave; hope rippling through all those looking on.

We were worried the children would cry and we'd be discovered

Friday 4th November 2016
Newly-arrived families queue for relief supplies at Khazer camp. Photo: Iraqi Red Crescent/Safin Ahmed

Sometimes it is not enough, but we are giving everything we can

"We are so lucky to finally be in a safe place," Zenada tells me, as she settles into a tent with her husband and three small children.

Families like hers have fled Mosul and are starting to arrive in camps established beyond the reach of the fighting. Many arrive only with the clothes they are wearing, receiving much-needed food and relief supplies from Iraqi Red Crescent.

Those who make it tell of walking through the night to reach safety.

"We were so worried the children would cry out during the night and we would be discovered," one mother says. Another man explains how he waved his white singlet when he saw Kurdish military forces approaching.

Thousands more are expected to arrive in the camps as the fighting intensifies. Humanitarian agencies including Red Cross Red Crescent have prepared camps in strategic locations around Mosul. Essential services like health care, water supplies and toilets are integrated into these tent cities.

Rashawan Bayez from Iraqi Red Crescent is heading up a team of 2,500 volunteers ready to help. They have food, blankets, cooking sets, stoves and jerry cans positioned around the camp, ready to give families as they arrive.

"Sometimes it is not enough, but we are giving everything we can," Rashawan explains, before heading off to meet some Red Crescent trucks brining more food to the camp.

The real story of this photo is happening in the background

Monday 31st October 2016
Photo: Iraqi Red Crescent

This is the moment the man was reunited with his wife and child

I really like this photo. It shows an Iraqi Red Crescent volunteer providing emotional support to people who have escaped the violence in and around Mosul.

But there is another story in the background -- a man hugs a small child, while a woman looks on, with an amazing smile. Some families have been separated since Mosul was taken some two years ago, torn apart by the war. This is the moment the man was reunited with his wife and child.

I tear up a little each time I look at the photo -- it's such a beautiful moment.

I also like that their reunion is in the background of the photo. We have incidentally captured a special moment in their lives without intruding on it.

"We're getting ready for when and if they have to leave the city"

Thursday 27th October 2016

On his way to the airport, Joe shares his thoughts, hopes and fears.

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