GENEVA- A looming Iraqi military operation against the Islamic State group in Mosul could spark "one of the largest man-made disasters" in years, the U.N. refugee agency's top official in Iraq warned Thursday, urging the international community to keep up support for displaced Iraqis before a battle that could mark a turning point for the war-ravaged country.
Bruno Geddo of UNHCR says more than 1 million people could be displaced by the campaign to retake the largest IS-held city, which has an estimated population of 1.2 to 1.5 million. The Iraqi government has pledged to retake Mosul this year, but has not announced a date for the operation -- and has been gearing up with support from the United States and other allies.
Speaking Thursday to reporters after meetings with donors in Geneva, Geddo said UNHCR is preparing as well, but faces constraints in obtaining land for camps, erecting them in time, and winning full funding for its plans. He said UNHCR and partners are planning to provide tents, water, medical support and other services to the estimated 700,000 people who might flee Mosul.
The military operation in the city "has the potential to be one of the largest man-made disasters for many, many years."