Middle Eastern Children Are the Main Victims of the Ongoing Conflicts

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It should be made perfectly clear that armed conflicts are not simply leading to high death rates among minors, but they also inflict irreparable harm to those minors that survived the carnage. The whole Middle East may be labeled as highly hazardous area due to the continuous bombing of the region. The United States alone has dropped more than 25 tones of ordinance on this region in 2015 . As bombs, shells and rockets go off, the environment is getting heavily polluted with neurotoxic substances and metals that are extremely harmful to one’s health. It would hardly be a surprise to anyone that children and pregnant women are particularly susceptible to those substances.

An article in the Environmental Monitoring and Assessment scientific journal would point out that shells and bombs are affecting a considerably larger area that the one they directly hit, putting civilians at risk of getting incurable diseases. As it’s been noted by Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, who is a regular contributor to this journal, as bombing start pouring down in a certain area, the number of birth defects among newborns stars to raise pretty rapidly in the same region. For instance, in the Iraqi city of Basra saw a 13% increase in the number of children born with defects in May 2010, then in just a few months this figure rose to 30%. Mozhgan is convinced that this rise can attributed to the fact that people started inhaling toxic substances produced by all sorts of ammunition.

However, all sorts of ammunition are hardly the one only source of danger for civilians in modern conflicts, since there are less obvious, but no less dangerous environmental threats. In particular, scientists have established a direct link between the toxic emissions and the US Army waste utilization protocols in Iraq. This conclusion was made on the basis of toxicological studies of tissue samples taken from Iraqi children with birth defects and their parents, which showed a significant excess of lead, mercury and titanium in their bloodstream. Such levels could lead to deafness, blood cancer, and various lung disease.

It should be noted that there’s over 500 US military in the Middle East, while this number reached the staggering level of 1500 back in 2003. Most of these facilities adopted a pretty convenient manner of disposing of garbage, used equipment and other waste by simply burning it. Therefore, heavy metals and other harmful substances are spreading across the region along with black smoke, inflicting irreparable harm to local communities and their children.

According to the eyewitness reports of those American soldiers who fought in Iraq, that have been carefully documented by a former US naval officer Joseph Hickman in his book The Burn Pitsfoam,

enormous pits are being used to burn everything , ranging from electronic equipment, metal cans, rubber tires, munitions, explosives, batteries, excrement, animal bones and skins. It goes without saying that those practices break every environmental or safety standard known to men.

The toxic black smoke produced by these illegal dumps, some of which are still burning to this day, eventually reaches residential areas and starts poisoning local population. One of such garbage dumps near the Iraqi city of Balad was used to burn up to 50 tons of waste.

As the war carries on, it continues claiming new victims, most of which will never be reported, including those that need protection the most – children. They are supposed to be the future of the Middle East and they are primary victims of the conflicts in the Middle East. And it would be too narrow-minded to count as victims only those injured, since there are those mentally crippled, deprived of parents and home. According to UNICEF’s latest report that was published under the title A Heavy Price for Children.Violence Destroys Childhoods in Iraq, every fifth child in Iraq is subjected to the threat of death, physical injury, sexual abuse and forced enlistment in one of the armed groups. Since 2014, according to this international organization 838 children were killed, 794 wounded, 1,496 abducted, while a total of 1.5 million children were displaced, while 575 thousand were forced to find an employment. Due to the loss of those who can bring food, families are forcing girls under 15 years old to get married. The number of early marriages has doubled in Iraq since 1990. More than 3.5 million school-age children do not receive any education. In total, one third of all children in Iraq, which constitutes the mind-boggling number of 4.7 million are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

Of course, the consequences of the tragic events in the Middle East will continue manifesting themselves for decades to come. Today’s children of Iraq and other Middle East countries suffering from the devastating effects of wars are the future politicians, country, doctors, nurses, lawyers, workers, farmers, scientists and engineers. If you we fail today in protecting and educating these children, future social and economic losses will cripple the development of the entire region. That is why the international community must unite to put an end to all sorts of violence in the Middle East.

Natalya Rogozhina, Ph.D. in Political Science, senior research fellow at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, the Russian Academy of Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook“.