In Asmaa’s memory
UNICEF-supported mine risk education protects children across Syria from explosive hazards
Aleppo, Syria, 4 April 2020 – “I will never forget that tragic day; it shook the whole village,” says Nada, 27, a UNICEF-supported volunteer on the mine risk education programme in Sheikh Ahmed village, eastern rural Alepoo.
She was referring to a sad day in October of last year when Asmaa, a beautiful six-year-old girl was killed in a mine explosion. Heavy rain had uncovered landmines buried all over the war-ravaged village.
"I looked away for one minute and I heard a loud explosion; I ran outside, knowing in my heart that she was gone"
“She was playing with her brother just outside the house,” recalls Sabah, Asmaa’s mother, in between sobs. “I looked away for one minute and I heard a loud explosion; I ran outside, knowing in my heart that she was gone,” she says.
Asmaa had picked up the shiny landmine and it exploded immediately, killing her.
“When I saw her reach for the landmine, I knew what it was because I had seen it in mine risk education leaflets,” explains Idris, Asmaa’s twin brother. “I screamed at her to not touch it, but it was too late,” he continues.
Idris had attended a mine risk education session at a UNICEF-supported centre in Sheikh Ahmed village, where he learned how to identify explosive hazards and protect himself against them. Asmaa was sick on the day and missed out on the session, but she was scheduled to attend one only the week after.
"I can’t stop thinking that had she taken the session, she could still be with us today"
Following Asmaa’s death, the UNICEF-supported volunteers took it upon themselves to re-administer the mine risk education session to all children at the village. They also scanned the entire village, identified locations of 44 unexploded remnants and reported them to authorities, leading to their safe removal, namely from the vicinity around the village school and roads leading to it. Children who had attended the sessions also reported explosive hazards they came across, using the lifesaving information they received.
“It’s our responsibility as a community to make sure we do not lose another child,” says Wafaa, 27, a volunteer with a UNICEF partner on the mine risk education programme in Sheikh Ahmed village. Wafaa, a mother of five, volunteered after her son found an unexploded remnant near their home.
“My heart goes out to Asmaa’s mother; it could’ve been anyone of our children.”
Thanks to generous support from Belgium, Germany, Spain, the Government of Japan, the Office of U.S Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), UNICEF is implementing mine-risk education programmes, aiming to reach children and caregivers across the country, including those returning to war-ravaged areas, with lifesaving information on the identification of and protection against explosive hazards.