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Perilous Daily Life in Northwest Syria: Unexploded Ordinances and Drone Strikes

IDLIB, Syria and PARIS – When Abdelkader Madirati was just 8 years old, he fell victim to a cluster bomb in the town of Tadef, north of Aleppo, resulting in the amputation of his right hand and most of his leg. His mother recounted the tragic incident to ABC News, explaining how he mistook the cluster bomb for a small ball, leading to the devastating explosion.

Living in the northwest region of Syria, Madirati resides in an area where Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have intensified attacks on civilians in recent months. These assaults include the use of Russian-made guided missiles and drones, alongside a deadly arsenal that includes unexploded ordnance, remnants of a prolonged crisis that continue to endanger the local population and disrupt essential activities like farming, fishing, and food production.

According to data from The Carter Center, between December 2012 and May 2021, approximately 972,051 explosive munitions were deployed in Syria, with an estimated failure rate of 10% to 30%, leaving behind a significant number of undetonated devices, ranging from 100,000 to 300,000.

In addition to the ongoing conflict, the region, home to 4.5 million people, faces multiple crises, including economic challenges and the aftermath of earthquakes that struck last year, resulting in the loss of thousands of lives and leaving many more injured in northwest Syria and neighboring Turkey.

Abdelkader Madrati, now 10 years old, has been undergoing rehabilitation at the Happy Steps Center for Prosthetics in Azaz, where he has been equipped with a prosthetic leg, enabling him to walk once again. However, the road to recovery has been arduous, placing a financial burden on his family of four.

Madirati’s mother shared the struggles they faced, including the daily commute of about 50 km to the center, which posed a significant financial challenge for their economically disadvantaged family. Despite borrowing money from relatives and friends to cover expenses, she remains indebted to a neighbor for $300.

While Madirati is gradually coming to terms with his injury, he has encountered bullying from peers, leading to social isolation and withdrawal from school and outdoor activities. The emotional toll on him is profound, as he expressed his desire for acceptance, friendship, and access to a smart prosthetic hand to enhance his daily life.

The White Helmets, a dedicated team working to clear unexploded ordnance, have made significant efforts to mitigate the risks posed by such remnants of war. Their work has been instrumental in safeguarding communities and reducing the threat of explosive devices, including cluster bombs, in the region.

Despite these efforts, the dangers persist, with documented incidents of explosions causing casualties and injuries, particularly affecting children and women. The risks faced by farmers, like Anwar Halabi, underscore the challenges posed by targeted attacks on agricultural lands, jeopardizing livelihoods and food security in the region.

The escalating attacks on farmers, fishermen, and civilians in northwest Syria have far-reaching consequences, impacting food production, economic stability, and overall security. The region’s vulnerability to ongoing conflicts and environmental hazards further compounds the challenges faced by its inhabitants, highlighting the urgent need for sustained support and intervention to mitigate the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the area.