More than 519 Iraqi children have been killed or maimed over the past five years from explosive remnants, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on Tuesday.
“For the last 5 years, 519 children have been killed or maimed in Iraq due to explosive ordnance,” UNICEF said in a statement marking International Mine Awareness Day, jointly released with the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS).
It said more than 80% of the affected children are boys “due to incidents of child labor, such as grazing animals or collecting scrap metal to sell.”
“Children are particularly vulnerable, attracted to remnants for their colorful appearance and unaware of how dangerous they are. Some of these weapons are familiar household objects that have been turned into explosives,” the statement added.
UNICEF and UNMAS urged governments “to avoid the use of explosive weapons in populated areas (EWIPA), and to speak out to protect children and civilians worldwide from the threat of explosive ordnance.”
They also warned that though Iraq has not suffered from open conflicts in recent years, “the effects of explosive weapons will reverberate for years to come.”
The two bodies promised to continue providing “explosive ordnance risk education (EORE), and referrals to “relevant services, including medical treatment and psychosocial support when needed.”
However, they urged the Iraqi government and the international community to facilitate “the scale-up and provision of EORE activities so that children and other community members receive life-saving messages in schools and communities in all areas previously affected by conflict in Iraq.”
Explosive remnants are some of the biggest security challenges that the Iraqi authorities are struggling to address.
The explosives date back to the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s, the Iraq-Kuwait war in 1991, the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, and Iraq’s war against the Daesh/ISIS terror group.