The report highlights challenges humanitarian organizations face when called upon to provide trauma care in wartime.
The Battle of Mosul was one of the largest urban sieges since World War II. From October 2016 to July 2017, Iraqi and Kurdish forces fought to retake Iraq’s second largest city, which had fallen to ISIL in 2014. They were backed by U.S.-led coalition forces. More than 940,000 civilians fled during the siege and thousands were injured as they sought safety.
When it became clear that the Iraqi forces could not provide the trauma care for civilians during the Battle of Mosul required by international law, the World Health Organization and its partners stepped in to provide care at the frontline. This unprecedented involvement by humanitarian organizations in a conflict saved as many as 1,500 to 1,800 lives, both civilian and military, according to new report from the Johns Hopkins Center for Humanitarian Health, which is based at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
At the same time, the report observes, such involvement carries many challenges, including jeopardizing neutrality and risking “instrumentalization,” or becoming compromised, and the report’s authors recommend that this type of situation be avoided whenever possible. Under the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocols, the warring factions are obligated to provide trauma care to civilians who might be injured in conflict.