‘This is my Calling’
Rebuilding Mosul – My Hometown
July 2018 marks one year since Iraqi forces and their allies retook the city of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), after three years of occupation.
As many as one million people fled the city due to the conflict but today 870,000 have already returned to their hometown.
Hiba, MHPSS Case Manager at International Medical Corps is one of them.
In this article, she tells us about how she left Mosul in 2014 and ended up assisting people just like her: people whose lives have been torn up by war. Hiba also reflects on returning home as she continues to treat people scarred by the agony of conflict.
Mosul is Hiba's hometown – this is where she grew up. With a wish to understand the people and the dynamics of her community, this is where she studied and graduated with a degree in sociology as well as got married. Hiba and her husband now have four children. Before the occupation, the family lived in a district called Al-Noor - a vibrant and densely populated part of Mosul.
Hiba describes July 9th 2014 - the day she and her family had to leave the city - as the ‘apocalypse’. As long as the eye could reach, families fled Mosul, many of them by foot – bringing only what they could carry. She also recalls what felt like a never-ending wait until the family was cleared to enter Iraqi Kurdistan. When Hiba arrived in Zakho, a city close to the Turkish border, she took up a position as mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) case manager with International Medical Corps – she has now been with the organisation for four years.
When asked why she wants to help other people affected by the conflict, Hiba says:
‘It gave me the strength to go on, as I can understand what people are going through. That also helped me become more efficient in my day-to-day work. I wanted to help the vulnerable and marginalised as well as families - especially women and girls. As a woman, I know exactly what they were going through. God blessed me with the opportunity of completing my studies and having a wonderful family, not everybody had the same opportunities’.
When Mosul was retaken from ISIL, Hiba returned to her hometown together with her family. She feared that their house had been badly hit by air raids and that fear was confirmed when they arrived to their house: Two-thirds of the family home was completely ruined.
And Hiba’s fate is not rare - far from it: Since the fall of ISIL, the UN and its partners have carried out assessments in Mosul. Aside from the obvious loss of and damage to life, the team also discovered immense damage to hospitals, bridges and schools – all of which are cornerstones of a functioning society.
Having returned to Mosul, Hiba continues her work. She is currently providing MHPSS-services at a primary health care centre in Al-Mansour, a district western Mosul.
‘There is an overwhelming number of cases - most people are still suffering from the impact of the conflict. The most common issues I encounter relate to psychological distress such as anxiety, depression and PTSD. The team tries our best to address the crushing needs of the population - they need support and help as they continue to suffer from lack of employment, a harsh economic situation as well as a completely damaged infrastructure system. I believe that this is my calling’.
Hiba’s lifesaving work to heal Mosul and its people would not be possible without generous funding from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO).