Wednesday, 21 June 2017 09:21

One Third of Iraqis Displaced from Gwer Return as Mosul Displacement Continues

Iraq - As the battle officially began his week to retake the last few neighbourhoods of West Mosul’s old city from ISIL, about 50 kilometres away people have started returning to the increasingly bustling riverside town of Gwer.

About 11,200 of Gwer’s population of 65,000 initially fled after ISIL briefly took control of the town in 2014. Gwer was retaken by the Peshmerga forces a few days later, but the city remained a volatile frontline with ISIL. Only when the militant group was pushed back, in the lead up to Mosul’s liberation in July 2016, did displaced families feel safe enough to return. Nearly a third of those displaced have now returned.

Last week, the city of Gwer hosted a ceremony attended by the Governor of Erbil, dignitaries from Gwer and beneficiaries from the community to celebrate the opening of the primary health care centre which was rehabilitated and refurnished by IOM with financial support from Canada and the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

The care centre aims to provide primary and emergency health services for about 7,000 people inside Gwer and 50,000 individuals in 30 surrounding villages.

Much of Gwer’s infrastructure and its primary health care centre was damaged and looted when ISIL first took and entrenched itself there during the summer of 2014. Although the building itself was not massively damaged, doors and windows were broken, toilets, wash basins and generators destroyed, and electricity cables, health equipment and furniture stolen.

In August 2016, IOM joined the Erbil Governorate’s Refugee Council for an initial assessment in Gwer, which identified the priority needs for rebuilding the city. After careful consultations with key community stakeholders, IOM decided to rehabilitate critical community infrastructure.

The rehabilitation of the health centre was started in February this year by a contractor, under IOM’s supervision, who used local labourers to complete the three-month work by May.

While the facility was damaged, IOM was providing primary health care to residents of Gwer by regularly sending mobile medical teams to the town. By the time the health centre was ready, IOM mobile medical teams had logged an average of 90 consultations a day and a total of 12,036 during the course of the previous six months.

With all the work completed and equipment installed, IOM handed the health centre back to Iraq’s Ministry of Health. The centre is now up and running and taking in between 100 and 150 cases a day.

Funding from the US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) helped IOM rehabilitate four school buildings, two Arabic and two Kurdish, in Gwer. The two-month work, carried out by local Gwer labourers and contractors, was completed in April.

To support the livelihoods of people in Gwer, 99 beneficiaries were provided with 74 business support packages and 25 business enhancement packages by IOM, funded by Canada and PRM, which will benefit 594 returnees in total.

“Our house was still standing but it was empty. Our furniture was looted and some parts [of the building] were damaged. Although we were disappointed, we were determined to overcome the situation,” said Zubaida, who was displaced to Kirkuk in 2014 when ISIL overran Gwer, and a member of one of the hundreds of families who have since returned to the town. Zubaida received support from IOM to set up a hairdressing business. “It brought back hope. I have new and more advanced hairdressing tools now. Working is honourable and there should be no difference between men and women,” she said.

From the rehabilitation of community infrastructure, to community engagement and livelihoods, IOM’s involvement has played a major factor in encouraging many of Gwer’s displaced families to return.

IOM Iraq Chief of Mission Thomas Lothar Weiss said: “Schools, homes and businesses have been destroyed by ISIL over the last four years. Yet, there is nothing more that IDPs would like than to return to their homes and neighbourhoods. To do so, many need support to rebuild their properties and restart their lives. IOM is resolved, together with our humanitarian partners and the Government of Iraq, to provide what assistance it can to help and encourage Iraqis, displaced by war, embark on the next phase of rebuilding their homes and country.”

Latest on Mosul Displacement
Both the UN and Iraqi government are working on the assumption that between 100,000 to 150,000 individuals remain entrapped in the western sector of the old city of Mosul.

IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) Emergency Tracking shows a drop in the number of those fleeing western Mosul in the last week with only 15,000 individuals registered between 11 to 18 June. But the last few days saw an increase in the flow of injured civilians out of Mosul, many of them displaying wounds from gunshot, bombs and shelling.

According to the Government of Iraq’s Ministry of Migration and Displacement (MoMD), a total of 694,231 people have fled west Mosul since the start of the operations on 19 February. Cumulatively, 870,381 people have been displaced since the start of the military operations to retake Mosul city.

IOM’s DTM actively monitors displacement across Iraq, with the latest DTM Emergency Tracking figures available at
Cumulatively, from 18 October 2016 to 8 June 2017, IOM Iraq’s DTM has tracked and confirmed the location of more than 609,612 displaced individuals (101,602 families) from Mosul. Of these, more than 417,000 are currently displaced and more than 190,000 have returned.

For further information, please contact IOM Iraq:
Hala Jaber, Tel: +964 751 740 1654, Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or
Raber Aziz, Tel: +964 750 465 9204, Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Additional Info

  • Agency: IOM

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