Members of MAG Iraq’s Community Liaison team have trained Iraqi charities and youth workers on the dangers of guns, under a new UNICEF-supported project aimed at preventing needless child deaths.
Teachers from 60 schools in Diyala and Kirkuk, staff from Basra-based non-governmental organisations 'The Humanitarian Women and Family Organisation', 'Hadea for Human Rights' and 'ISCP' (Iraqi civil society programme), and youth workers were among the hundreds of Iraqis trained in 'risk education' techniques. It is expected at least 12,000 children, parents and youth workers will be safer as a result.
Small arms casualty figures from Iraq are alarming. Although numbers are not available for the whole country, in 2008 the Kirkuk Provincial Department of Health alone recorded 313 deaths and 975 injuries as a result of accidental gunfire.
Children in particular are at risk from guns. Many households own one, so they are easily accessible. Toy guns and weapons are also popular, and accidents have previously happened when a child swaps a pretend weapon for a real one without knowing the dangers.
Mufleh Talouzi, MAG Iraq’s Country Programme Manager, said: “In the 16 years since MAG has been working here our teams have seen too many times how children’s natural curiosity and reduced sense of risk can be deadly. We are really pleased to be working with UNICEF to spread these hard-learned safety messages to regions throughout Iraq, and to the people who need to understand them most.”
UNICEF Iraq Representative, Sikander Khan, stated: “This training is a critical start to raise awareness of how the widespread presence of guns and other light arms in Iraq threaten the safety and lives of Iraqi children. By doing so, we hope needless child deaths will be avoided in the future”.
UNICEF is present in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.
[Photo, top: MAG staff teach the risks of small arms and unexploded ordnance to children in Iraq in 2007]
25 January 2010