On World Refugee Day, we're sharing one family's story to highlight the deadly dangers faced by the women, girls, boys and men returning home after being displaced by conflict.
In May this year, MAG teams in Iraq received a call reporting an explosive threat in a village in Sinjar, Ninewa Governorate.
When the Community Liaison team arrived to assess the area, they were shocked to find a group of young girls and boys playing with an unexploded bomb.
The Ninewa region of Iraq was devastated by ISIS occupation — tens of thousands of women, girls, boys and men were captured and killed, and millions forced to flee their homes.
The conflict left behind a deadly legacy of improvised landmines and unexploded bombs.
The children in Sinjar believed the bomb they had discovered was a ‘dud’. They had been playing with it for a few days, and nothing had happened.
On closer examination, MAG's expert team discovered the bomb was, in fact, incredibly dangerous. The fuse was damaged, making it fragile — any slight knock could have caused it to detonate.
The children had been unbelievably lucky. But it wasn’t the only threat they faced.
Kheder, aged 11, said: “I have seen a bomb in a house just over there. I know of other bombs around here as well.”
MAG immediately delivered life-saving lessons to the children, using posters and flyers to explain the dangers of unexploded bombs and other deadly and explosive remnants of war.
The team then arranged for the bombs to be cleared and visited the family who had first reported the threat.
Khokha was one of the family members to report the bomb; she feared for her fourth-month old baby, Sylvan. Their family had originally escaped ISIS in 2014 by fleeing to the Sinjar mountains and then on to Syria.
She said: “We came back to the village last September because our life was difficult — there was no work. ISIS damaged our home, but we are rebuilding it. But we are still afraid because the areas around us are not safe. And now we find out that the children were playing with a live bomb.”
Khokha is one of the almost two million women, girls, boys and men who have returned to Ninewa after fleeing ISIS. Across Iraq, around five million people have returned to their homes, though more than one million remain displaced.
When families return home, they don't know the extent of the dangers they will face.
MAG is working hard to clear the deadly legacy of the conflict and deliver life-saving lessons in communities in Ninewa and across Iraq so that families can return home and live, work and rebuild their lives free from the fear of landmines and unexploded bombs.