Violence in the besieged Old City of Mosul, including suicide bombings and airstrikes, is taking a devastating toll on residents, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) says.
Civilians caught up in fighting between Iraqi forces and IS in the Old City of Mosul are dying of starvation and war wounds, including gunshot and blast injuries, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said on Wednesday.
The medical charity said it had treated more than 100 patients, including at least 25 children and 20 women, in less than two weeks at its clinic in west Mosul.
Patients were arriving with a variety of injuries, including shrapnel wounds, gunshots, burns and broken bones, MSF said.
“While we are providing essential life-saving care for them, our biggest fear is in fact many won’t make it outside the front line,” Vittorio Oppizzi, MSF head of mission in Iraq, told SBS World News.
Iraqi forces have pushed IS into a shrinking rectangle no more than 300 by 500 metres beside the Tigris river, but slowed their advance on Tuesday out of caution for an estimated 10,000 civilians trapped there alongside the militants.
Residents have been caught in the crossfire - and often intentionally targeted by IS - since the offensive began more than eight months ago.
Thousands have been killed and around 900,000 - around half of Mosul's pre-war population - have been displaced.
Civilians who had managed to flee the besieged city had brought harrowing stories with them, MSF said.
“There are many stories of people losing relatives because of direct conflict,” Mr Oppizzi said.
“But also stories of people that lost relatives dying from starvation.
“People that have been forced to bury their relatives before attempting to escape the front line.”
Basic food staples have become prohibitively expensive in the past three months and for many there is nothing to eat aside from boiled wheat.
Mr Oppizzi reported widespread undernourishment and trauma among civilians.
The number of IS fighters in Mosul has dwindled from thousands at the start of the US-backed offensive to a couple of hundred now, according to the Iraqi military.
Iraqi military commanders have predicted the city will be retaken by the end of this week, but the Iraqi government and coalition forces still face enormous humanitarian challenges.
“Many hospitals in Mosul have been damaged or completely destroyed, so the access to healthcare will be an issue over the coming period - regardless of the conflict situation,” Mr Oppizzi said.