Displaced Iraqis evacuate from western Mosul's al-Islah al-Zaraye neighbourhood on May 13, 2017 during the government forces' military offensive to retake the area from Islamic State (IS) group fighters. (AFP photo)
BAGHDAD, May 18 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations on Thursday said that up to 200,000 more people could flee Mosul as fighting against Islamic State (IS) militants intensified in the western side of Iraq's northern city of Mosul.
"The numbers of people who are moving is now so large, it's becoming more and more difficult to ensure civilians receiving the assistance and protection they need. As military operations intensify and move closer to Mosul's old city area, we expect that up to 200,000 more people will flee," Lise Grande, the UN's Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq said in a statement.
"We are talking about very large numbers of families who are leaving everything behind. They are fleeing under very difficult circumstances," Grande said, adding food, safe drinking water and medicines have not been secured for many of them for weeks or months.
Nearly 700,000 people have been displaced from their homes in and near Mosul since the launch of an offensive to dislodge IS militants from their last major stronghold in Iraq, including over 500,000 people who have been forced to flee from the western neighbourhoods of Mosul city alone, the statement said.
The UN Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) in 2017 requested 985 million U.S. dollars for Iraq, but as of Thursday, only 28 percent of the plan is funded. Under the HRP, approximately 331 million dollars is being sought for Mosul operation, according to the statement.
"The military battle in Mosul isn't over yet and even when it is, the emergency will continue for months. We have no choice, we have to redouble our efforts to mobilize more resources and get assistance to the people who need it the most," Grande concluded.
Iraqi forces, backed by international coalition, have been fighting to drive out IS militants from the western side of Mosul, but about 12 square km remained under the control of the extremist militants, including the heavily populated old city center, where roughly 400,000 residents are believed to still be trapped under IS rule.
The troops are now pushing to defeat IS militants in the remaining neighborhoods in Mosul's western side and are seeking to claim victory before the holy month of Ramadan late in May.
Mosul, 400 km north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, has been under IS control since June 2014, when government forces abandoned their weapons and fled, enabling IS militants to take control of parts of Iraq's northern and western regions.