Childbirth is dramatic enough for first-time mums but imagine going into labour and then waddling through sniper fire to reach hospital.

Nurse Taryn Anderson is one of 15 Australian medical personnel caring for civilians at a new 48-bed field hospital south of Mosul in northern Iraq.

The war between Islamic State militants and Iraqi forces is taking a heavy toll on the hundreds of thousand civilians trapped in the city.

Canberra-based Aspen Medical, which previously ran the Australian funded Ebola clinic in Sierra Leone, has been contracted by the World Health Organization to manage the new hospital.

Among the first patients was a 19-year-old woman, nine months pregnant who had been trapped in a basement for 20 days with minimal food.

"She needed to try to escape in order to give birth safely but as she was escaping she was shot in the abdomen by a sniper," Ms Anderson told AAP from Iraq.

There was a foetal heartbeat and she gave birth to a healthy baby boy by caesarean.

"Amazingly the bullet had gone through the uterus but only grazed the left elbow of the child," she said.

The hospital is treating lots of shrapnel injuries as well as gunshot wounds to the head, arms and legs.

"There seems to be a common pattern of snipers targeting children with a non-lethal shot to the legs in order to claim a second target when the family member rushes out to help," Ms Anderson said.

Staff draw strength from patients who pull through against the odds.

There was an eight-year-old girl with fragments of shrapnel in her head including one just above the brain stem.

"We questioned the value of intubating and ventilating her but thought we'd give her 24 hours and see how she did. Four days later we discharged her walking and talking," the Geelong-based registered nurse said.

Like Ms Anderson, infection control nurse Erin Lowe, from Shepparton also worked in Aspen's Ebola clinic before the stint in Iraq.

"Ebola was an invisible enemy," she said.

"Here in Iraq, the combatant is visible, it's armed, it's causing reckless harm to innocent people. It's a lot easier to hold anger towards something you can see attacking randomly."

Central Coast nurse Melissa Kellow reflected on the innocence of childhood stolen - a group of five children had been playing in a field and one found an unexploded landmine, which detonated. Three kids sustained severe head injuries and had limbs amputated.

Vesna Courtot, a Melbourne nurse said her most heartbreaking moment was zipping an eight-year-old girl with a mortar blast head injury into a body bag.

"Her small head was wrapped in blood-soaked bandages, her plaited hair peeping through the dressing," she said.

"Her father requested I remove the bauble hairtie from her plaited hair. He placed it in his pocket. It was all he had as a memento of his daughter."

* Medical professionals interested in working at the Aspen field hospital near Mosul should visit: www.aspenmedical.com/recruitment

AAP

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