An Iraqi boy in a house damaged by bombing in the Ninewa area, where he returned to live with his family after the sudden closure by the government of several camps for displaced people | Photo: EPA/MURTAJA LATEEF
An Iraqi boy in a house damaged by bombing in the Ninewa area, where he returned to live with his family after the sudden closure by the government of several camps for displaced people | Photo: EPA/MURTAJA LATEEF

The organization Save the Children said thousands of children are forced to live among unexploded bombs, dead bodies and rubble, after the closure of camps for displaced people in Iraq.

Thousands of children and their families are forced to live in badly damaged houses in abandoned areas with unexploded bombs, dead bodies and rubble, after the sudden closure of several camps for displaced people in Iraq, said Save the Children in a statement.

The organization said its teams spoke to parents who had been forced to leave the camps. They told harrowing accounts of finding unexploded bombs and corpses in buildings and under rubble in the areas they now reside in.

"Families are in urgent need of basic services such as electricity, clean and safe drinking water, food and transport," the organization said.


'My son came to me with a non-exploded grenade in his hand'

Save the Children shared the story of Ali (not his real name), 47, a father of four who returned to Mosul from Yahyawa camp in Kirkuk.

"When we came back here, the area wasn't cleared; there were explosives. I brought down an unexploded bomb from the rooftop of my house.

Children were holding bullets but didn't know what they were.

My son came to me with an unexploded grenade in his hand. He said, 'Father, what is this?'

People also found a corpse in one of the destroyed houses. This area was the last shelter for ISIS in Ninewa, so most of our houses were destroyed during the conflict. Our children are not safe here. They need safety, they need awareness about landmines and unexploded bombs, mental health support, toys, winter clothes and food," Ali said.

No adequate shelter or heating

Save the Children said, "The camp closures are part of the return of around 250,000 people to their areas of origin, including 48,000 people who will be affected by camp closures before the end of November."

Some of the 303 families who were moved out of the Yahyawa camp arrived in Mosul, Eiyadiah and Tal Afar in Ninewa governorate, "only to discover there was no safe shelter".

Yahyawa camp used to shelter nearly 2,000 people, including around 1,000 children.

According to Save the Children's volunteers who were forced from the camps as well, families are particularly worried about girls getting kidnapped. With winter approaching, families face spending the harshest season without adequate shelter or heating.

"There are many risks to children's lives here, such as explosives, rubble, COVID-19, scarcity of food, dead bodies and skulls among the rubble, and the cold winter," said Shahad (not his real name), who volunteered with Save the Children in Yahyawa camp before it was closed.

'What's happening now is deeply concerning'

"What's happening now is deeply concerning," said Save the Children's Country Director in Iraq, Ishtiaq Mannan.

"Up to 49% of the affected people are children who have lived in difficult camp conditions for over three years, and are now forced to live in places no child should live in: in the midst of debris and among dead bodies. This is a desperate situation for thousands of children in the middle of a pandemic, made worse by the looming start of winter. This is why we are calling on the government to provide alternative shelter for families who do not wish to return to their areas of origin," he said.

The organization is calling on the international community to work with the Iraqi government to come to a long-term plan for the closures of the camps in line with international standards to ensure the protection of vulnerable families and children.

 

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