UNICEF protects children and their families across Syria against explosive hazards

As violence subsides in parts of Syria, , thousands of children and their families are returning to their homes in conflict-ridden areas, where explosive hazards remain a serious risk, threatening to kill or injure.

Yasmine Saker
Boy standing with a Mine Risk Education flyer
UNICEF/Syria 2018/ Omar Sanadiki

03 April 2018

As violence subsides in parts of Syria, , thousands of children and their families are returning to their homes in conflict-ridden areas, where explosive hazards remain a serious risk, threatening to kill or injure.

Across the country, an estimated 8 million people are exposed to life-threatening explosive hazards, including in Aleppo, Dara’a, Rural Damascus, Idlib, Ar- Raqqa and Deir-ez-Zor governorates. Such hazards range from landmines, to booby traps and unexploded remnants of war and have devastating consequences on the lives of children and their families.

In Ar-Raqqa in north-eastern Syria, over 95,000 children and adults have returned to their homes since last October, only to be faced with tremendous risks. Until last month, at least 658 people were injured and more than 130 killed in explosive hazards- a shocking average of six blast wound incidents per day.

Last year in Aleppo, 383 people were killed and hundreds more injured in similar hazards, having returned to east Aleppo after fighting subsided.

Seven years into a violent conflict, explosive hazards pose a serious threat across the country. Such hazards have immediate and long-lasting effects, that can be prevented through educating returnees.

Rula Al-Koudsi, child protection officer with UNICEF in Damascus.

Children are especially prone to explosive hazards because they are curious and aren’t always aware of the risks. To protect children and their families across Syria, UNICEF supports a mine risk education programme, aimed at teaching children and adults how to identify, report and protect themselves against explosive hazards. At school, children engage in recreational and educational activities and receive brochures with important messages on safe behavior. The programme also includes awareness-raising sessions in collective shelters, clinics and community centres, to ensure maximum reach.

In areas where a heavy presence of explosive hazards was reported, UNICEF-supported volunteers even went door-to-door to give children and families life-saving information.

“Our priority is to reach children. Because they are often very curious, they want to explore their surroundings which puts them at the greatest risk,” says Mohammad, a volunteer participating in the UNICEF-supported risk education campaign in Aleppo.

A man explaining to a child about unexploded remnants for awareness
UNICEF/Syria 2017/ Khudr Al-Issa
Mohammad explains to a child in Aleppo the risk of unexploded remnants of war using information manuals.

"What we do is very important. Even if it is saving just one life.  Being able to protect thousands of children is very significant."

Mohammad

Last year alone, 1.8 million children and over 100,000 caregivers were reached through the mine risk education programme.