Mosul, 5 years on – Timeline of MSF activities

2014: Islamic State Group takes Mosul 

On June 10th, 2014, Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, located in Ninewa Governorate, falls to the Islamic State group. After the control of the Islamic State group over Mosul and the following offensives to retake the city from their control, over one million Iraqis fled their homes to seek safety, mostly in Iraqi Kurdistan. MSF launches an emergency response to provide basic medical care and essential relief items for displaced people in several locations and governorates in northern Iraq. The support to the displaced continues over 2015.

2016: Start of the battle of Mosul, MSF emergency response in and around the city

On October 16th, the offensive to retake the city starts. Iraqi security forces, with the help of a US-led international coalition fought for nine months. Almost every street and every house were visited and secured. Thousands of people were wounded or killed in the fighting and more than one million were displaced. This battle remains one of the deadliest urban battles since the Second World War, with medical needs during and after the battle among the highest in the country’s history. Today, the city is still struggling to recover from the aftermath.

  • November: MSF deploys mobile teams to newly erected camps west of Erbil —where displaced people were settling— to provide essential relief items and basic healthcare services to people fleeing Mosul. 
  • December: In Qayyarah, a town located on the west bank of the Tigris River, about 60 kilometres south of Mosul, MSF opens a field hospital with an emergency room, operating theatre and 32-bed inpatient department. In its first month, the hospital treats more than 1,000 emergency patients and carries out more than 90 surgeries. Later, a therapeutic feeding centre is added for children suffering from malnutrition as a result of severe food shortages in besieged West Mosul. 
  • Between October and December MSF opens several trauma stabilisation units around Mosul to provide emergency surgery for war-wounded patients escaping Mosul

2017: MSF scales up assistance 

When the offensive reached West Mosul in mid-February, the number of people seeking safety in camps east of Mosul in areas within the Kurdistan Region of Iraq continued to increase. 

MSF teams respond to the emergency in and around Mosul by positioning several trauma stabilisation posts close to the front lines. MSF teams worked in 16 locations across Ninewa and Erbil governorates, providing basic healthcare, treatment for non-communicable diseases and mental health support to thousands of people displaced from Mosul. 

On July 10th, the battle of Mosul is declared over.

  • January, MSF sets up a 70-bed hospital with a trauma stabilisation unit, emergency room, intensive care unit, inpatient department and maternity capacity inside a former orphanage to the northeast of Mosul.
  • February: MSF deploys its first mobile surgical unit trailer to operate as a fully functioning trauma facility in Hammam Al-Alil—a city about 27 kilometers south-east of Mosul. 
  • March: MSF transforms a former retirement home in East Mosul into a facility with   an emergency room, operating theatre, and maternity and inpatient departments. Our teams also start providing post-operative rehabilitation and psychosocial support in a 40-bed hospital in Hamdaniyah, southeast Mosul. In the same month, MSF opens a 24/7 emergency room, a surgical unit and a 32-bed post-operative care ward in Al-Ta’aheel hospital.
  • June: MSF opens Nablus hospital, West Mosul, to give life-saving trauma assistance to war-wounded people escaping from the Old City, and to provide maternal care for people in the area. Later on, as war-related trauma cases decrease, MSF adapts Nablus Hospital by expanding the maternity, new-born and paediatric care activities. 

2018: Returning and facing urgent needs

One year after the city was taken back from the control of the Islamic State group, many families return to neighbourhoods scarred by conflict and years of living under the Islamic State control. The situation shifts from an emergency to one of recovery and stabilisation. But the public infrastructure struggles to respond to the increasing needs. MSF activities develop through the year, adapting to the evolving context to support the public system and respond to the acute needs of the population.

  • April: MSF opens a comprehensive post-operative care facility in Al-Salam and Al- Shifaa hospital complex, in East Mosul, to provide services for people injured by violence or accidental trauma. 
  • July: In response to a measles outbreak, MSF supports the Department of Health to carry out a measles vaccination campaign for more than 42,000 children living in camps for displaced people in Qayyarah. 

2019: Supporting the healthcare system of the city

While there is major investment to rebuild the city, everything takes time. As displaced families return to Mosul, the demand for healthcare, including sexual and reproductive healthcare, increases. But many healthcare facilities have been destroyed and there is an overall shortage of healthcare specialists. MSF continues to support existing healthcare facilities while opening new facilities to address the acute needs with a focus on child and maternal healthcare.

  • May:  A new 20-bed ward was added to Nablus hospital for paediatric care. In December, MSF adds a new operating theatre to the hospital in response to the continuous need for maternal healthcare, including as c-sections.
  • July: MSF opens Al-Amal basic maternity obstetrics and newborn care centre in West Mosul to assist up to 300 women per month. 
  • December: MSF completes building Al-Shifaa hospital for infectious diseases. The 28-bed hospital is the only infectious disease hospital in the city. Later the hospital serves as a main COVID-19 isolation and treatment hospital.

2020: Supporting the response to the pandemic while providing essential healthcare to the population

More than three years have passed since the end of the war, but the devastating impact is still felt in Ninewa. Many people are still displaced, but in October, the Government of Iraq decides to close most of the displacement camps, forcing people to return to the areas from which they had fled. 

The COVID-19 pandemic complicates the situation further, causing health structures to suspend activities and overwhelming the ones that remained active. MSF adapts its services to support the COVID-19 response while continuing to ensure access to basic healthcare for people in Mosul.

  • March: MSF temporarily repurposes its comprehensive post-operative care hospital in East Mosul to serve as a COVID-19 treatment centre for suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients until October. 
  • November: MSF opens a 16 -bed COVID19- intensive care unit in the Al-Salam Hospital, East Mosul, providing advanced care for critical and severe cases of COVID-19.

2021: Continuing to support the recovery of the healthcare system

COVID-19 waves continue to affect people living in the area. The lack of sufficient medical services in Mosul’s public hospitals, coupled with Iraq’s struggling economy, have made it challenging for people, especially injured people to access the care and follow-up they need. To support the recovery of the health system in Mosul, MSF continues to provide comprehensive and basic maternity services in the city along with the emergency and surgical care.

  • Early 2021: MSF restarts its surgical activities in Al-Wahda hospital with an increased capacity by opening a second operating theatre and 40 isolated patient rooms. 
  • August: Following the recovery of some healthcare facilities and the improvement in the capacity to provide emergency care to adults in the city, the Nablus field reduces its emergency room admission criteria to patients under 15 years old.

Five years after Mosul was officially declared retaken from the IS group by Iraqi authorities, many medical facilities damaged in the fighting have yet to be fully renovated and made fit for use, and there are still shortages of medical supplies. As a result, thousands of families in and around Mosul still struggle to access quality affordable healthcare. The numbers of births per month MSF’s team assists has reached record numbers. The surgeries MSF provide at Al-Wahda Hospital is not easily accessed elsewhere in the city, due to limited availability or prohibitive costs. But despite these challenges, people in Mosul’s are back on their feet. The strength our teams witness in the patients they treat tells a story of resilience and hope.