Britain ramps up humanitarian aid in Iraq ahead of Mosul offensive

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain said on Thursday it will give 40 million pounds ($52.26 million) in humanitarian aid to Iraq, anticipating a wave of displaced people as government forces prepare to recapture the northern city of Mosul from Islamic State.

The advance on Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city which fell in 2014 to the militant group, could begin as soon as next month.

The United Nations says the Mosul offensive risks triggering a major humanitarian crisis, with one million or more people potentially fleeing the city.

“New UK support will put in place critical stocks and supplies for basic life support such as food, shelter, sanitation facilities, and protection assistance ahead of Mosul military operations,” said Britain’s international development secretary, Priti Patel, in a statement.

The funding announced on Thursday is in addition to the 169.5 million pounds ($221.45 million) the UK government has already spent on aid in Iraq since 2014.

This commitment comes a week after the United States pledged to give Iraq $181 million in humanitarian aid ahead of the Mosul assault.

Lise Grande, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, on Monday appealed for more funding to help people displaced by the conflict. “We’re very worried that we won’t be able to prepare in time” for the Mosul battle, she said in a statement.

The United Nations estimated it would need $284 million to respond to the expected displacement of civilians from Mosul, and up to $1.8 billion to deal with the aftermath of the offensive.

U.S. and Iraqi officials are also concerned there has not been enough planning for how to manage Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city and a mosaic of ethnic and sectarian groups, if and when Islamic State is kicked out.