• 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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BDPs and Problem of Lack of Info, Pt. 1

Posted By: Erica

Below is the first of two separate reports on the information vacuum that exists when assessing the need for humanitarian aid to battle-displaced persons.  Both my report and the future report form Rebecca, our guest blogger, highlight the difficulty of properly assessing, delivering and evaluating aid to those harmed by conflict.

KABUL – Last week I met with several staff members from the United Nations HCR who work specifically with assisting battle-displaced persons (BDPs) in Afghanistan. Particularly in the conflict-prone south of Afghanistan, near Kandahar and Helmand, assisting those who are battle-displaced can be a never-ending cycle. Recent news articles have focused on large numbers of displaced civilians in Arghandab and Garmser . like UNHCR, together with the World Food Program, the International Red Crescent or other humanitarian agencies, Agencies have the tough task of trying to develop enough emergency relief supplies – tents, blankets, food, clean water – to allow these families to survive in the immediate aftermath of conflict. Their work is often compromised by lack of access to credible information. Because of security concerns, they often cannot go to the site of the conflict, and have to depend on reports from the military, journalists, community leaders etc. “Often it means splitting the difference between what the military says and the community leaders say,” one UNHCR representative told me. “If the community says 3,000 and ISAF says 300, we prepare enough provisions for somewhere in the middle of that.”

Disabled children in Afghanistan

Posted By: Erica

I spoke to a woman from UNESCO yesterday working on inclusive education for children with disabilities. Thirty years of warfare have left a significant number of disabled children, most due to poor health care access during 30 years of war but an estimated 25% due to the direct consequences of conflict. For example, those injured from explosive remnants of war (ERWs), including cluster bomb duds or other unexploded ordnance, are frequently children who inadvertently pick up or hit the ERWs while collecting wood, water or other materials for their family.  Children who lose a leg or an arm, suffer deafness, or have other disabilities are usually not allowed to go to school, not allowed to learn a trade, nor given other development tools that would allow them to become normally functioning adults.

The woman I spoke to in UNESCO has been working for the past twenty years to persuade Afghan government entities and school authorities to allow some of these children to go to school.  It’s a sad legacy that sometimes the most effective redress for those injured in conflict would be a return to normalcy – something that these children’s injuries and the ongoing conflict do not allow.

Exploding Threat to Afghans

Posted By: Erica

On May 30th, 110 nations [now 111] signed the Cluster Munitions Treaty in Dublin, Ireland. The treaty bans the use, development and stockpiling of cluster munitions–a type of weapon that when dropped aerially or ground-launched, disperses hundreds or thousands of tiny submunitions (or bomblets) that can cover an area as wide as a football field. The submunitions are designed to explode on impact, but in many cases they don’t, leaving behind what are functionally hundreds of mini-landmines. The Cluster Munition Treaty recognizes requires clean up and – finally – assistance to civilians harmed. Continue reading

Air Raids in Gardez

Posted By: Erica

Today I went to a small city, Gardez, a few hours south of Kabul. I stayed at a UN guesthouse and at different points of the day and night you could hear the faint sound of gunfire and explosions in the distance. Although Gardez itself is relatively stable, it’s only about 10 kilometers out from the hottest part of the province, an area believed to be a stronghold of the Taliban. Continue reading

UN Special Rapporteur speaks out

Posted By: Erica

For the past two weeks the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary executions has been in Afghanistan on a fact-finding mission (See here for a Special Rapporteur definition). His mandate is to look into all violations of the “right to life” in Afghanistan, and provide recommendations for improving respect for this international obligation. Continue reading

Meeting with the UN

Posted By: Erica

Yesterday I met with several officers of the United Nations mission here, referred to as UNAMA. The folks at UNAMA have themselves been trying to figure out how to coordinate support for civilian casualties. They agree with CIVIC that the international community should provide support for civilian casualties caused by international troops. They also share our concern that funds like ACAP and POHRF could be better coordinated both among NATO states and with agencies within the Afghan government. Having emergency relief or aid delivered and coordinated by an Afghan agency – perhaps at first in partnership with experienced humanitarian organizations – would strengthen the government’s longer-term capacity to aid those who have suffered the direct consequences of conflict. Continue reading