Children in Daraa, southern Syria, face the risk of explosive hazards

UNICEF-supported mine risk education helps mitigate the risk to protect children’s lives

Tarek Jacob and Yasmine Saker
a volunteer with children
UNICEF/Syria/2020/Jacob
09 April 2020

Daraa, Syria, 4 April 2020- It was a little over a year ago that sisters Lorine, 7, and Limar, 6, were walking to their aunt’s nearby house in Izraa, Daraa, when their mother heard an explosion.

“I will never forget this day,” says Yara, their 25-year-old mother who immediately felt something bad had happened to her daughters. “I grabbed my younger daughter, Lujain, and frantically ran to the street,” she recalls.

Asking people on the street, Yara found out that a mine had exploded and that the injured were rushed to the hospital.

“One man took a look at Lujain’s feet and told me: ‘two girls wearing the same exact slippers were injured’; I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.”

 

kids sitting in a child-friendly space
UNICEF/Syria/2020/Jacob
Children participate in a psychosocial support session at the UNICEF-supported child- friendly space in Izraa, Daraa.

While the two girls were walking, a man just in front of them stepped on a mine, causing it to explode. While the man lost his two legs, the two little girls were hit with shrapnel all over their bodies, including just under Lorine’s left eye, leaving them with lasting scars.

“That explosion turned our lives around; Lorine talks about it every single day,” explains the young mother. Lorine would often come back from school crying, having been bullied due to her scars.

“Limar, on the other hand, avoids talking about it completely but she refuses to go anywhere alone,” continues Yara.

 

a girl at a crafts table
UNICEF/Syria/2020/Jacob

A few months ago, Yara heard about a UNICEF-supported child-friendly space in Izraa and immediately enrolled the girls. At the centre, the girls engage in recreational and educational activities around child rights, and psychosocial support, while interacting with around 100 children their age, thanks to generous support from Canada and Germany. They also participate in mine risk education sessions where they learn about the different types of explosive hazards and how to protect themselves against them, thanks to a generous contribution from the Dutch National Committee and the Office of U.S Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA).

 

A girl in a group of children
UNICEF/Syria/2020/Jacob

“Children are very prone to be injured by unexploded ordnance due to their curiosity,” says Nisreen, a volunteer at the UNICEF-supported centre.

“We teach them not to pick up any foreign objectives and to report them to adults,” she explains.

Since they started frequenting the centre, Lorine and Limar have made new friends and are learning to get over the trauma they have witnessed, thanks to volunteers at the centre.

“When they come back from the centre they recount what they did with the biggest smiles on their faces; I can’t believe they are smiling again,” says Yara.