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“I had to drug my baby to escape”: Mothers from 'hell on earth' share their stories.

The main transit area of Hammam Al Alil camp just south of Mosul is hell on earth.

Exhausted and traumatised families stream off buses by the hour, escaping the city with not much more than their lives.

“Whose daughter is this? Dear families, whose daughter is this?” a volunteer shouts, carrying a crying toddler on his shoulders as he desperately looks for her mum.

refugees in Mosul
34-year-old Noor, a mother of four, has nowhere to sit but the filthy ground as she tries to breastfeed her one-year daughter. (Image: Supplied)

Relatives who have been separated for months collapse sobbing into each other’s arms; others sit dazed in the mud clutching the few plastic bags that hold all their belongings. I find 13-year-old Ahmad who’s standing at the edge of the crowd looking terrified.

"My uncles are here in the camp but I can't find them," he says quietly. "I think my mum and my dad are in Makmour. Can you take me there?"

We find an aid worker from the NGO Save the Children, who takes the young boy off to help him to trace his family. Meanwhile, crying women were waiting by the gate of the camp registration office, desperate for news of their missing loved ones.

"He was wearing blue trousers. They tell me he was checked in and is here in the camp somewhere," said Um Mohammad, who is searching for her 15-year-old son.

"He's my only son," she says with tears streaming down her face. "He's sick. He can't walk properly."

Meanwhile, crying women were waiting by the gate of the camp registration office, desperate for news of their missing loved ones. (Image: Supplied)
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34-year-old Noor, a mother of four, has nowhere to sit but the filthy ground as she tries to breastfeed her one-year daughter in the middle of this mayhem.

“We have no one to take care of me and my kids and my disabled husband,” she tells me, sobbing. “Even the bag I was holding in my hand I lost it on my way.”

For the past few months, Islamic State has held these men, women and children hostage as human shields. Just to try and leave meant risking death. Families had to escape in the dark of night, sneaking past the militants’ snipers that have been routinely picking off those fleeing. Mothers are even resorting to drugging their babies to ensure they are not caught.

I gave him some drops of medication,” a young mother who just arrived from West Mosul tells me, holding her sleeping six-month-old baby boy. “I didn’t want him to make a sound.”

"For the past few months, Islamic State has held these men, women and children hostage as human shields." (Image: Supplied)
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And it’s not just Islamic State that is causing fear, injury and death. There is is growing outcry at the high civilian death toll  - with residents reporting intense coalition airstrikes that are killing and wounding families trapped in West Mosul.

I find 35-year-old mother of two, Khowlah, in the corner of a small medical caravan, moaning and shivering in pain. She was wounded in an airstrike 15 days ago and has had no proper medical treatment for her leg, which is clearly broken.

"I had to carry her on my back all the way from our neighbourhood," her brother tells me.

“So many families have been killed, so many have been killed because of the airstrikes. They’re being pulled from rubble. “

Outside the medical caravan, thirty-five year old Suhair is among a crowd of mothers standing in the rain, begging for milk for their babies.

“They told me they have run out,” she tells me sadly.

We follow Suhair back to the large communal tent where she and her seven children spent last night. They have nothing to sleep on but a few pieces of cardboard on the ground. Last night they had no blankets and just huddled together to try and stay warm.

“My house was destroyed and we have nowhere to go,” she says. “Can you believe it's been one month since we showered?”

Intense coalition airstrikes are killing and wounding families trapped in West Mosul. (Image: Supplied)
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The United Nations desperately needs more funds from foreign government to care for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi families who have escaped ISIS.  The UN's warned that 300,000 more people might need assistance in the next few weeks and they just don’t have the funds to care for all of them.

But the pleas for funding come as foreign aid is increasingly underfunded around the world. President Trump is set to be looking at massive aid cuts while under the Turnbull government has cut more than one billion dollars to Australia’s aid budget since 2015.

Sophie McNeill is the ABC's Walkley Award winning Middle East Correspondent. (Image: Supplied)

Melany Markham, an Australian aid worker with the Norwegian Refugee Council in the camps around Mosul, says the humanitarian system is under tremendous strain right now, not just in Iraq but in Syria, Yemen and many north African countries effected by famine.

“People are in very desperate need right now, “ she says firmly. “And it’s not a time for governments to reduce their generosity. Especially in a place like Iraq. We owe it to these people.”

Sophie McNeill is the ABC's Walkley Award winning Middle East Correspondent. She can be followed on Twitter and Instagram.

On behalf of Sophie, Mamamia has made a donation to the UNHCR. To help those in war-torn Mosul, please donate here.