One year after the battle for Mosul began, residents like the Shehab family are returning to their neighbourhoods.

Those returning to West Mosul, where the fighting was heaviest, are finding it nearly unrecognisable – extensively damaged and littered with explosives. Despite the challenges, families are determined to rehabilitate their city and resume their lives.

Um Ahmed, her husband Nawaf and their young children spent ten days huddled in the basement of their home while the battle for the city raged around them in October 2016. As soon as they felt a lull in the bombardment, they fled to a nearby displacement camp.

The Shehabs spent four months living in a tent in a desert camp. 

The Shehabs spent four months living in a tent in a desert camp. They were homeward bound the day after the Iraqi government declared the battle won.

“We were so afraid of losing our house,” explained Um Ahmed.

The Shehab family has returned to their home in Mosul. © UNHCR/ Cengiz Yar

Eight-year-old Amani’s bedroom was damaged during the battle. © UNHCR/ Cengiz Yar

Arriving on their street, Um Ahmed’s heart sunk. The entire front section of the family’s home lay in ruins. However, after clearing a path through the rubble they discovered that most of their possessions remained, protected by the fallen front walls.

“Something bad turns into something good,” Nawaf said with a smile.

The family were homeward bound the day after the Iraqi government declared the battle won. 

UNHCR estimates that over 280,000 people displaced by the battle have now returned home to Mosul. Staff on the ground have assisted thousands of returning families with sealing-off kits to fix damaged structures, protecting against dust storms and cold winter weather.

UNHCR’s sealing-off kits include foam sealant, tarpaulins, electrical insulation tape, straw mats and carpets for insulations, screw drivers, cutting knives, large scissors, rope and nails.

Nawaf, who suffers from epilepsy and a heart condition, is going about his repair job slowly and carefully. Um Ahmed and her sister sew dresses to sell to support their families.

“We should never lose hope,” says Nawaf.

The needs remain great for Mosul’s residents. A third of the population is living in substandard housing. Close to 5,000 families are in dire need of cash assistance to cover food and basic utilities, with economic activity yet to resume. Electricity and water are in short supply, accessible only during certain hours. Still, the Shehabs are not giving up.

You can help families like Shebabs return home and rebuild their lives. With another winter of extreme cold, snow and heavy rains just weeks away, they urgently need assistance.

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The Shehabs show UNHCR staff the basement they were forced to shelter in for ten days during heavy bombardment. © UNHCR/ Cengiz Yar

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