LIBYA: Now children carry flyers, not UXO, in Zintan
Children in the north-west Libyan city of Zintan live surrounded by unexploded ordnance (UXO) and weapons, a legacy of the region’s participation in the revolution against Colonel Gaddafi.
Youngsters can be seen carrying mortars and playing with small ammunition, throwing them into the fire and enjoying watching how they explode.
Unfortunately, their parents often do not realise the dangers until an accident occurs.
Nine-year-old Mahmood Ahmed (left) found an interesting-looking green item and wanted to see what was inside it.
What he didn’t know was that it was a bullet from an anti-aircraft machine gun.
Mahmoud took the bullet to the backyard of his house and started hitting it with a stone. It exploded, cutting his left hand off.
It took time for Mahmood to recover. He is using a plastic artificial hand now, but his wounds were not just physical.
As well as Zintan, MAG is present in other towns in the region, including Al Khalayfa and Yefren
His family says he does not seem to be as happy as he was before. “He was hurt and traumatised,” a relative told us.
To help prevent other children suffering like Mahmood, MAG is conducting Risk Education activities with the people of the Nafusa Mountains, including sessions specially tailored for younger age groups.
In Zintan alone, we have worked with 40 schools and 3,390 schoolchildren, both boys and girls. Mahmood was one of those present.
These tailored safety messages aim to change the risky behaviour of the conflict-affected population.
“I am glad to see the schoolchildren now carrying Risk Education posters distributed by MAG, instead of carrying UXO,” said the deputy principal of the city’s Khansa School, “and I hope the children of Zintan will not have accidents like little Mahmood”.
As well as the landmines laid outside the city to defend it during the conflict, Zintan is littered with the UXO and shells scattered around a huge ammunition bunker that was destroyed by a NATO air strike.
And though the fighting has stopped, the weapons held by the former fighters are being kept in their homes. Celebratory fire is common during public holidays, parties and weddings, and the local hospital has received several casualties injured by the bullets coming back to the ground.
The contamination poses a high threat to the population, as the head of National Transitional Council of Zintan explained: “The accidents have just started and, if they are not prevented, there will be more to come, caused by silent war of the mines and UXO.”
MAG's "Mine Risk Education for Refugees, IDPs and host communities in Libya and Tunisia" project is funded by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
7 November 2011