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UN refugee agency hands out aid to those fleeing fighting in Mosul

The UN refugee agency has distributed aid to dozens of Iraqi families uprooted from their homes in and around the city of Mosul.

The UNHCR also r eiterated its need for funds to offer winter assistance in an area that sees temperatures fall below zero.

Its aid workers handed out heaters, fuel containers, big sheets and hygiene kits to about 30 families.

Unlike in some areas inside Mosul where chaos erupted when hundreds of civilians overwhelmed aid trucks, the people lined up to get the aid in a camp in the town of Khazir, about 19 miles east of Mosul.

"We have received these items. But we need heating oil," said Haider Mahmoud Ahmed.

"They're here. Blankets, a heater, but we don't have water, drinking water. All the tankers around here are empty. There is no water in them. We want them to be filled so we can live. Yesterday we were freezing. There is no heating oil."

Some displaced people are still haunted by what they experienced before leaving for the camp.

"It was raining mortars on us. There were snipers. And a rocket landed in the middle of the front yard. Inside the garage," said Abdullah Ahmed Saleh.

The UNHCR's senior public information officer, Caroline Gluck, said the aid items are part of emergency assistance "for families who've literally fled for their lives". She added: "Often most don't have anything apart from what they're wearing."

She said that temperatures during night-time fall to below zero and "it's really tough for these families".

"We're hoping to bring winter assistance to more than a million displaced Iraqis but funding is an issue and we urgently need extra money to be able to fund all our winter assistance programmes," she said.

The families are among the nearly 5,500 people living in tents in a camp east of Mosul, where the battle to retake the city from the Islamic State group is under way.

So far, nearly 70,000 civilians have fled, according to UN.

Many Mosul residents decided to stay in their homes, which the Iraqi government had requested in order to avoid a large-scale displacement.

But as progress on the ground slows, hundreds of thousands are now stuck with dwindling food and water supplies. That has prompted chaos whenever supply trucks do make it to trapped civilians.

Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, is the last major IS urban bastion in the country. The battle for Mosul, which started on October 17, is proceeding slowly, with Iraqi troops advancing cautiously to avoid civilian casualties.



From Belfast Telegraph