Iraq Mines Nightmare (Iraq)
Iraqi children are life-threatened with nearly 25 million unexploded ordinances, about 25 percent of the global unexploded ordinances, left behind by wars that plagued the country in recent decades.
BASRA - Iraqi children are life-threatened with nearly 25 million unexploded ordinances, about 25 percent of the global unexploded ordinances, left behind by wars that plagued the country in recent decades.
"I lost my son and my daughter is now handicapped because of the mines near our farm," cried Um Khalid, 34, a mother of two who lives in a rural area near the Kuwait-Iraq border south of Basra.
"We never know were to step and had called many times for the government to clean the area but in vain. Had I to lose a child to bring some attention to our area?" she fumed.
Iraqi mines, which are about 25 percent of the global unexploded ordinances, were placed during the Iraq-Iran war, the first Gulf War and the 2003 US-led invasion. According to the Ministry of Environment, some 25 million unexploded ordinances in more than 4,500 minefields, mostly concentrated on the borders with Iran, Kuwait and Turkey, need to be cleared.
The long the process drags on, the more innocent lives are lost.
"The mines are everywhere. Every year we hear that they are going to take it away but it never happens," lamented Um Khalid.
"We just get promises and while it doesn't happen, we keep losing our children as result of an unfair war that never ends."
In April, the government announced the creation of two thousand jobs to help in mine-clearance operations.
However, there have been no reports of any hiring since then.
"All attention has been switched to the security situation of the country leaving the mines clearance behind although it has the same importance," said Col. Jaffar Ali Hassan, a senior officer in Basra governorate.
"Millions of funds have been allocated to security concern while mines clearance are receiving little attention."
NightmareRural areas are still the most dangerous places and the lack of information and instruction make residents more vulnerable.
"Residents of rural areas are more vulnerable to the danger of landmines especially for being mostly illiterate people," said Salah Hamzah, a government landmine expert.
"They don't accept losing part of their lands to the mines and sometimes insist on farming, cultivating and raising their cattle in these areas, becoming an easy target," he added.
"Some people depend on these areas to survive and although we try to make them aware of the situation, they want to support their families and just choose to ignore the danger."
Abdel-Qader Hussein, 51, a farmer close to the Iraq-Kuwait border, was the victim of mines in his own land.
"I lost my wife and daughter because of the landmines but I don't have choice and have to keep working in the land," he said.
"I have two choices, the first is taking the risk and feed my family with my income and the other is to die from hungry. I prefer the first option because at least I will know that I'm trying to survive and God will help me for this reason."
Children organisations have sounded the alarm over the increasing number of landmine victims, particularly children who easily mistake small bombs for toys or step over unexploded ordinances covered by grass.
According to UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), 25 percent of the unexploded ordinance victims are under 18.
Dozens of children are either killed or maimed every year because of the landmine nightmare.
Ala'a Shakarty, 11, is a recent victim of these ordinances.
Playing with friends, he confused a small ordinance for a toy and lost an arm and a leg during the explosion.
"I miss playing with my friends and going to school," he said with tears rolling down his face.
"My life is now restricted to a chair."
Von: 06.08.2008, www.islamonline.net, By Afif Sarhan