War and Politics are Adult Games, but the Losers are Always the Children!

It was 12 am on the 13th of March 2001. And that was the day a group of seven children from The Golden Kids Club, including me, left for Iraq! We went there with the objective of bringing back the plight and awareness of the suffering of the children in Iraq to the children here in Malaysia. We took a Royal Jordanian Airline flight to Amman, Jordan and not in Iraq itself because Iraq was a no fly zone! As we had a day to spend in Amman before leaving for Baghdad, Iraq we took the opportunity to visit some interesting places around Amman!

Early the next morning, we were all geared up to take a 10 hour journey into Baghdad by "GMC" or otherwise known as four wheel drives. We arrived in Baghdad in the evening after going through two complicated immigration check points, one at the Jordan border and the other at the Iraqi border. We spent the night in, what they called the best hotel in Baghdad, called Al Rasheed Hotel and managed to get a bit of rest before embarking on our itinerary the next morning. The first place we visited in Iraq was the Karadat Mariyam orphanage home for orphans below the age of five .

This orphanage was occupied by 74 very young and unfortunate children. Their parents mostly died of diseases and complications during child birth. Many also died as a result of poor healthcare and insufficient medication as a result of the economic sanction on Iraq where for the last ten years Iraq has been experiencing shortage of medication even for the normal cough and cold medicines.

The condition of the orphanage was not as well maintained as the orphanages in Malaysia! We managed to mingle around with the children there. Even though they looked happy to receive our gifts of balloons and chocolates, we could clearly see the sadness and cravings for love and hugs in their eyes. I was touched looking at a girl named Zainab, who cried each time she saw someone. I took pity on her and approached her. She immediately stopped crying and just stared straight into my eyes. I held her hands and I could feel that she didn' t want me to let go. It was, as though, nobody has ever held her like I did. Maybe she didn' t even get to see her parents when she was born and therefore was never cuddled or loved by anyone. I broke down and tears filled my eyes at that thought.

This place was the first place that showed us the cruelty of war. When we got out of the orphanage, we met up with some kids by the roadside on our way to our bus. We chit-chatted with them and gave away chocolates and balloons.Unfortunately, we didn' t have enough balloons to pass on to every one of them. They ended up fighting over it. It was, as if they have never seen anything like it before. But here in Malaysia, we see balloons every day. Some of us even get sick of it! That shows how fortunate we are compared to the children there.

After lunch on the same day, we visited their children' s hospital. It was called the Baghdad Children' s Hospital. The hospital was lacking of medication and facilities. All the medical supplies and facilities they had are outdated. The patients there were also lacking of attention. We didn' t see a single nurse around! The patients were taken care of by their parents and grandparents. And the smell of each room was like, I don' t know how to describe it, it was really bad! But we had to go on visiting the wards without closing our nose or faces. According to the doctors, 6,000 to 7,000 children die in Iraq every month. In this hospital, 1 or 2 patients die each day. Within the 2 hours we were there, 1 patient died of leukemia.

The next day, we visited the secondary and the primary schools. All the students looked cheerful and happy. But when we examined closer, we saw that the condition of the school and the classrooms were not good. Each student was given 12 pencils, 4 erasers and 4 sharpeners for the use for the whole year. Every class was filled with 40-50 students. 2 tables were shared by 5-6 students. And their lab was empty. All they had was a blackboard, tables and sinks. There were no equipments for them to use to conduct experiments. And this was the condition of a secondary school. The primary school was worse! 1 class was filled by 50-60 students and 1 chair is shared by 2-3 students. The schools here in Malaysia are only filled with 20-30 students only. And each student gets their own chair! Aren' t we lucky?

In the evening, we visited a bomb shelter called the Al Meriyah shelter. This bomb shelter is 1 of the 43 bomb shelters they had in Iraq. This shelter was built in 1984 and was built in the middle of a residential area. This shelter is the size of a football field. This shelter could fill an amount of 422 people. At 4am on the 13th of February 1991, 2 laser guided missiles were fired at the shelter. The first missile made a big hole in the 6 layer concrete ceiling, cut the electricity supply and locked all the doors. There was no chance for the people inside to escape. A few seconds later the second missile came through the hole and burst the hot water pipes which were in the service area. The temperature rose to 400c and the pressure caused the children who were sleeping on the top bunk of a triple decker bed to be pushed up towards the ceiling. Up till today, we could still see the burnt flesh of their palms and feet on the ceiling. We also saw shadows of the victims who were thrown to the walls. We saw a shadow of a lady who was carrying a baby, a lady who was about to get married the next day and coincidently the shadow looked as if she was wearing a wedding gown and a veil, we also saw a shadow of someone' s head without the body. 408 people died meanwhile 14 survived with injuries and bad memories. The pictures of those who died were hung up on the walls. Most of the children were aged between 3-9 years.

Most of the children in Iraq have no exposure on what' s happening around them. They lack information of the outside world. It is like the Malay proverb ' seperti katak di bawah tempurung' . Compared to us in Malaysia, we have news about the outside world at our very own finger tips. We get information from the newspapers, TVs and the Internet. But unfortunately the children in Iraq do not have access to the Internet. Yes, they do have computers, well some of them do, but they are all outdated and old. Their newspapers are only filled with only news about their country.

As a conclusion, I' d like to tell all of you, that we are very lucky and we should be thankful that we are staying in this country. We have everything we need and all of us should be aware that there are people out there who need our help. These children do not deserve to suffer. So, why not lend a helping hand. Thank you!

 

by Amanda Sabri