Children and families across Syria at risk of explosive hazards: Yasmine’s story

“I wish I had this knowledge before; maybe it would have saved my father,”

Basma Ourfali
Girls walking
UNICEF/ Syria 2019/ Khudr Al-Issa
04 April 2019

After years on the move, children and families from eastern rural Aleppo have started returning to their damaged homes as violence subsides. In areas that have seen intense fighting, explosive hazards remain a serious risk, threatening to kill or injure – even after the violence has stopped. 4.3 million children in Syria currently live at risk of explosive hazards.

Aleppo, Syria, 4 April 2019- As violence subsided in their village in eastern rural Aleppo, Yasmine and her family decided to return to their home after over four years of displacement. Little did they know that this decision would cost Yasmine and her family a high price.

Exactly one year ago, on a sunny day, the family decided to plant some vegetable and seeds in the small farm surrounding their home. Farming is the main source of living in this part of the country.

As they were clearing weeds, a landmine exploded, killing the father and severely injuring Yasmine.

“I remember carrying my little brother Yousef and laughing at a joke my father made, when I heard a loud sound and everything went blank,”

13-year-old Yasmine

On that tragic day, Yasmine lost her gallbladder and left eye, while her 9 siblings and mother were injured with shrapnel.

“The neighbours rushed us to the nearest hospital which was an hour drive away,” says Hayat, Yasmine’s mother. “All I could think of was I just lost my husband, I cannot lose a child.”

Yasmine underwent three complex surgeries and was able to recover and return to school four months later, but she was never the same.

“Ever since the accident, Yasmine covers her left eye with her hand or her hair,” explains Hayat. “She doesn’t want people to notice and ask about how she lost her eye.”

“I don’t like telling the story of the accident, it makes me sad and reminds me of all the suffering I went through,” adds Yasmine.

To help them cope with the trauma they have witnessed, Yasmine and her siblings started attending psychosocial assistance sessions supported by UNICEF at the village. Since then, Yasmine has been more comfortable and has stopped hiding her eye.

“I love going to school to learn new things and make friends but it’s still difficult for me read from the board with one eye,” says Yasmine.

Together with her siblings, Yasmine also attended mine risk education sessions at school to learn how to identify and protect themselves against explosive hazards.

 “I wish I had this knowledge before; maybe it would have saved my father,”

A girl holding a book
UNICEF/ Syria 2019/ Khudr Al-Issa
Yasmine, 13, studies in front of her home in eastern rural Aleppo.
Children walking
UNICEF/ Syria 2019/ Khudr Al-Issa
Siblings (from the right) Sulieman, 11, Marah, 9, Rafat, 8, Yasmine, 13 and Mouhammed, 14, walk to school.

Thanks to the Office of U.S Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), Luxembourg, the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and the Syria Humanitarian Fund (SHF), UNICEF has reached over 47,000 children and caregivers across the governorate of Aleppo with mine risk education since the beginning of 2019 through awareness sessions in schools, health centres, child friendly spaces, worship places and door-to-door visits.