Even after a conflict is over, the screams of rockets, mortars, and gunfire fade. However explosive weapons’ effects can continue to reverberate long after it has ended. Children and their families continue to be affected by landmines, unexploded or abandoned bombs, which can cause permanent psychological and physical injuries. Iraq is still one of the most contaminated countries with explosive objects. Children are still in severe pain just walking to school, doing chores, or having fun with their friends.
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Hussein was playing soccer alongside his brother when an object burst under his feet. It tore open his stomach, and took off part of his right ear. Hussein claims that they hit something and gunpowder was released. Then it exploded. Hussein, 5 years old, and his brother, now live with their grandmother in Anbar at a camp for internally-displaced persons. Hussein’s family claims that he was traumatized by the blast in November 2021 and is now aggressive towards people at home.
Muqtada, then 16, was seriously injured when an object exploded from outside. In an effort to seek help, he dragged his self towards a car in front of him. He was afraid to get out of his car, as there could be landmines nearby. Muqtada was able to get into the car and then fell asleep. He didn’t recall anything about the explosion. Instead, he woke up in hospital with one leg missing. “I used to go out with my friends and play soccer every day. He says he can’t do it anymore.
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Zainab only remembers the intense heat. Five days later, Zainab woke up in Basra, a southern Iraqi hospital, with severe burns to her body and shrapnel in her eyes. Her mother had been killed in the explosion. Zainab was also informed that she would not be able see again due to damage to her eyes.
“When I think about her, I cry. Zainab said, “I lost my eyes and my mother.” She was my life. She is my best friend.
Zainab said she would like to return to school but that the schools in her region aren’t equipped to support someone with a disability such as hers. For now, Zainab says she still relies on Abdel, her older brother. She is determined to keep her education. She says, “I don’t lose heart.” “I would like to travel to India for surgery and to return to school as soon as possible.”
As in other countries, Iraqi children are especially vulnerable to unexploded remains. They are attracted to the explosives because of their colourful appearance, but are not aware of how dangerous they can be. These weapons can be household items that have been made explosive.
Noor’s hands shake as she recounts a 2017 attack. She says, “We lost thirteen relatives that day, including my mother.” Noor is silent as she recalls the event, looking at her uncle for comfort. Although the devastation is difficult to comprehend, the family hopes for better times. The family recently welcomed Noor’s niece.
Hanan, 11 years old, was helping her dad with livestock when an object exploded and threw them both into the air. Hanan’s father lost almost all of his vision and his arm, and Hanan was left with burns. “My stomach hurt. Hanan recalls how her life was forever changed when she spent two months in hospital due to shrapnel in her body and in my eyes. She claims she no longer leaves her home and is not interested in the things that other children her age enjoy.
The gap between the support needed by children who are dealing with violence’s impact and the resources that can help them has been huge over the years.
Ali, 17 years old, lost both his hands in 2017 during the shelling in western Mosul. He was caught up in fighting and got injured. Ali now uses a prosthetic arm and says that life has become more complicated since the shelling. Ali said that he had to leave school to avoid being bullied. He says it’s been hard to find work since potential employers don’t believe he is qualified for certain jobs. “I would love to work in a shop. He says that despite my disability, he sees himself as capable and useful.
In addition to the physical consequences, survivors of explosive ordnance often suffer a variety of social consequences. These include separation or discrimination from family members and community members, difficulty becoming financially self-sufficient and less opportunities for marriage. Social stigmatization, rejection, and unemployment are all common among amputees.
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In 2021, 125 children died or were maimed in Iraq by explosive remnants and other explosive ordnance. WE are working together in Iraq to improve child protection systems, as well as risk education programming. WE Iraq also reached nearly 69,000 children at risk in the same year and trained over 4,000 people in explosive ordnance education to decrease their risk of injury or death.