• About CIVIC

    CIVIC is a Washington-based non-profit organization that believes the civilians injured and the families of those killed should be recognized and helped by the warring parties involved.

    On this blog, you will find stories from our travels around the world as we meet with civilians and military, aid organizations and government in our quest to get war victims the help they need.

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  • Contributors

    Sarah, Executive Director

    Marla B, Managing Director

    Kristele, Field Director

    Liz, Chief Communications Officer

    Trevor, CIVIC's fellow based in Afghanistan

    Chris, CIVIC's fellow based in Pakistan

    Jon, CIVIC's US military consultant

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GUEST BLOGGER: Exploding Lebanon

Posted By: Jess K., traveled to Lebanon to speak with cluster munitions victims

My driver expertly navigated his way down the main street of Al Bazouriye, a small town that happens to be the ancestral home of Hezbollah’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, and where he lived out most of his adolescence after fleeing Beirut during this country’s civil war.

I went to Lebanon to gather testimonials of victims of cluster bombs that Israel used in its 2006 war with Hezbollah. Like many of the villages in south Lebanon, Al Bazouriye (5 miles east of the large southern city Tyre) greatly suffered from falling cluster bombs, largely in the last 72 hours of the conflict. As our car pulled up to a small café in the center of town, really more of a rundown booth with a few plastic chairs arranged outside and occupied by middle-aged men, I was told by my translator that there I could meet a fisherman from the coastal village of En Naqoura. Mohammed is a handsome man of about 35. He wore a black baseball cap with a matching polo shirt, and a pair of lightly tinted sunglasses. He told me that he used to be a fisherman and now drives a taxi. As we sipped our Turkish coffee and ate sweet cookies, Mohammed told me how he lost his hand and an ear from a cluster bomb. He said: “I was pulling in my haul, I grabbed something round, there was a flash, and I fell to the ground. Caught in the net was a cluster bomb. Something left over from 2006.” He pulled up his right sleeve revealing an arm so heavily peppered with the effects of shrapnel that the tattoo of a heart on his bicep is broken by the knotting of scars that reach all the way up to his neck. I can only imagine the difficulty of fishing with one hand.

With average failure rates as high as 25 percent, and much higher in some locations, cluster bomblets like the one Mohammed picked up failed to detonate when they were dropped. They now pose a hazard to civilians. The children here remind me of my young son, who is safely back in the US and needn’t worry if he strays while playing in the grass. In the US, we can go to work without concern that our spouse may not return for dinner because her life has been cut short by a cluster bomblet as she runs a routine errand. But these are the conditions that people in south Lebanon must live with because countries buy, sell and use these terrible weapons.

UPDATE: Shortages in funding for clearing unexploded duds in south Lebanon has forced a halt to operations. CIVIC is pressing international donors, like the United States and Israel, to provide the funding the de-miners need to continue their work. For video taken by CIVIC in Lebanon and Israel, click here. For more on the ban on cluster munitions agreed upon by 107 countries, and take action to help limit the effects of US cluster bombs, click here.

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Germany helping Afghans

Posted By: Erica

I’m in Kunduz now, in the north of Afghanistan. Kunduz saw heavy fighting and bombardment in 2001, when coalition forces were attacking Taliban fighters fleeing to the north, but since then it’s been a relatively quiet province. A few suicide bombings last year and threats from local insurgent groups suggest that might be changing, but for the time being the German Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), which is in charge of security and stabilization for this province, has a fairly quiet job.

Despite the calm in Kunduz there are civilians who are being harmed by the ongoing conflict and the military presence. I went to the local German PRT to talk to them about how they handle these issues. One officer told me that when there is an insurgent bombing that harms civilian casualties, or a road accident resulting in civilian injuries, they do what they can. But they are not given any funds to spend on such condolences or gestures of compassion to civilian families. Any funds they do raise come from the individual soldiers on the PRT or from their families back home in Germany.

One soldier told me: “When he had the automobile accident [a few days ago], at the morning meeting every soldier gave maybe 5, 10 euros, whatever he could for the family.” In that case, they were able to scrape together about 200 euros for that family.

Sometimes these soldiers find ways to help families that go beyond a monetary contribution. When there was a suicide bombing last May, resulting in 21 civilian casualties (5 deaths, 16 injuries), the Civil-Military (CIMIC) coordinator at the PRT tried to find jobs for those injured, or for their surviving family members, at the PRT or with other organizations in town. One of the victims, a 7-year-old girl, suffered severe burns requiring skin grafts and plastic surgery to restore. The PRT officials found a German charity that would take responsibility for flying her for treatment to Germany and taking care of her while there. After a lengthy process of approval, they were finally successful, and the little girl boarded a plane for Germany three days ago for her treatment.

It is an inspiring gesture of humanity that these troops will dig into their own pockets and resources to help Afghans. But it shouldn’t have to be that way. All NATO countries operating in Afghanistan should be giving funds to help war victims.