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Iraq: Preparing families for potential collapse of the Mosul Dam

No matter how a flood starts, its consequences are equally dangerous to the people in its path. Most floods are caused by heavy rainfall, storm surges, or insufficient drainage. In Iraq, the global Red Cross Red Crescent network is preparing residents for another type of flood: one resulting from possible collapse of the Mosul dam.

The US Army Corps of Engineers assessed the Mosul dam as the “world’s most dangerous.” It sits on a foundation of soluble rock that continues to erode, making it highly unstable. Critical maintenance to the dam has been disrupted by conflict in the region, so experts are warning about an imminent dam failure – which would put an estimated 10 million people living in the Tigris Valley at risk of heavy flooding and significant loss of life.

If the dam collapses, estimates indicate that 45 feet of water would flood Mosul within 1-4 hours, Tikrit and Samarra would flood within 1-2 days, and 33 feet of water would flood Baghdad within 3-4 days—causing displacement, destruction of core infrastructure, loss of business assets, and increased health hazards.

In order to prepare people for the possible disaster, the global Red Cross Red Crescent network joined forces with the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP) and USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) to alert Iraq’s residents about the potential risk of the Mosul dam collapse and recommend key actions to take before, during and after flash floods/dam collapse.

Iraqi Red Crescent volunteers went door-to-door to provide awareness information and encourage people to download Red Cross Red Crescent mobile apps, which contain key information that can keep families safe in the event the Mosul dam fails. The Multi-Hazard App and First Aid App provide critical early warning alerts and basic first aid instructions that can help save lives. The apps include tools such as warning capabilities, up-to-date information on emergencies, and step-by-step instructions—including videos and illustrations—on how to respond to critical injuries. In addition to the mobile apps, the public awareness campaign is spreading these same disaster preparedness messages via traditional media, community gatherings in high-risk flood areas, and digital media.

Mobile apps are quickly becoming a valuable tool for disaster preparedness around the world—and Iraq is no exception. Mobile phone use has grown rapidly in the Middle Eastern country in recent years, with 92.2% of the population covered. Mobile phone use has been rising steadily since 2003, when services were first introduced in the country.

Flood preparedness is just one aspect of the comprehensive disaster-related work the Iraqi Red Crescent has carried out over the past decade. Volunteers from the Red Crescent have been delivering critical aid in the midst of ongoing conflict in the country and are also equipped to deal with a variety of natural disasters. Most recently, 2,500+ Iraqi Red Crescent volunteers have been providing healthcare, water, food, and sanitation to families fleeing Mosul.

Media contact:

Jenelle Eli, American Red Cross

202-303-5551 (24/7 media line)

This project was carried out through the Red Cross’s Global Disaster Preparedness Center (GDPC)—a reference center to support innovation and learning in disaster preparedness. GDPC is co-hosted by the American Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

About the American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.