Sunday, July 8th, 2018
Mosul’s children haunted by constant fear and intense sorrow a year after the city was retaken from ISIS
Extreme mental distress of parents has left children with nowhere to turn for help
A year since ISIS was expelled from Mosul, the city’s children are living in near constant fear for their lives, and are often reliving memories of devastation, displacement, bombing and extreme violence, a new report from Save the Children reveals.
With hundreds of thousands of children living amidst the rubble, even teenagers said they were too scared to walk alone, be without their parents or go to school – many of which bear the scars of war.
As a result, children are reporting serious emotional problems, depression and extreme anxiety and have been pushed to breaking point, Picking Up the Pieces: Rebuilding the lives of Mosul’s children after years of conflict and violence found.
Children and youth experienced unimaginable horrors under ISIS and a year on they are still struggling to cope with their fears and feelings that nowhere is safe. The lack of safety many girls and boys continue to feel is likely behind their inability to heal and is a key driving force for their worries. More than 80 per cent of adolescents surveyed said they did not feel safe walking alone and almost half did not feel safe away from their parents.
Ten-year-old Rahaf* was rescued from the rubble of her home where her family was killed by an explosion, and is haunted by her memories, with everyday noises reminding her of bombs falling.
She now lives with her uncle Abdullah* who said, “to this day, when she sees an airplane she gets very scared. She has an immediate reaction of fear of being bombed”.
The report’s findings include:
Almost half of children surveyed felt grief all or a lot of the time.
Fewer than one in 10 children could think of something happy in their lives.
More than a quarter of adolescents told Save the Children they never liked who they were.
Half of adolescents aged 13 to 17 did not feel safe away from their parents and 80 per cent did not feel safe walking alone.
More than 80 per cent of caregivers said the worry caused by problems such as poor economic conditions and work opportunities caused them to lose sleep.
72 per cent of caregivers reported feeling unhappy or depressed, and more than 90 per cent reported feelings of worthlessness.
Save the Children asked caregivers about other social issues affecting youth that might be on the rise in the community – 39 per cent reported they knew of adolescents self-harming, while 29 per cent said they had heard about adolescent suicide attempts increasing.
To make matters worse, the report found the mental health of parents had been so badly impacted by the conflict that children had been left with little support, severely limiting their ability to break out of the devastating cycle of ongoing stress.
Instead of turning to overburdened parents and guardians, children are choosing not to speak about their problems, withdrawing from other people, and trying to self soothe or accept their problems – none of which are helping with their emotional distress.
“Internalising issues could put children at further risk of poor self-esteem, isolation and suicidal behaviour, and exacerbate their symptoms of depression and anxiety,” Save the Children Iraq Country Director Ana Locsin said.
“Unless children’s sense of safety is re-established, and parents are given support to help themselves and their families, children will remain distressed, leaving them at serious risk of further and long-lasting mental health issues.”
To add to the strain, many children are struggling to return to school because half of all schools in conflict-affected areas have been destroyed. Nearly one third of adolescents reported never feeling safe at school and only a quarter said they thought it was a safe space. This was in sharp contrast to the impressions of caregivers, with only 3 per cent of parents saying their children did not feel safe in school.
“These are children who have spent their formative years under ISIS. They have seen their schools transformed into battlegrounds and their friends killed in classrooms,” said Locsin. “School is no longer seen as a protective environment for children and it’s hard for them to feel safe in the classroom, and therefore, to learn and thrive.”
Twelve-year-old Fahad* from West Mosul now attends a school with damaged walls and no doors. “I don’t feel good in the class,” he said. “In this area, the sniper targeted the children so that when the mothers and fathers came to rescue them, he would shoot the whole family. The school got badly hit and the area became a frontline. The whole street became a frontline.”
Save the Children is calling on the international community to put the wellbeing of children at the heart of planning for post-conflict Iraq by stepping up funding for mental health and psychosocial programming and ensuring it is a key aspect of emergency responses as well as recovery and reconstruction efforts going forward. This year funding from the UN humanitarian appeal for Iraq for mental health programmes for children stands at just 7 per cent of what was requested. 
The Government of Iraq should also draft a national policy on mental health for children and families affected by conflict.
“It is imperative that urgent action is taken to ensure children have access to essential services, can feel safe to walk around, play outside and go to school,” Locsin said. “The future of Iraq depends on the development of its children into healthy, secure adults.”
*** Notes to editors ***
The report is based on a survey of more than 250 children and caregivers from West Mosul. The children were aged 13 to 17.
Questionnaires were conducted with children and parents who experienced life under ISIS and the displacement and violence that followed the retaking of the city, first-hand.
Save the Children has been working in Iraq since 1991. We work across the country to provide a broad range of services – from health, sanitation and psychosocial support to education and child protection.
*Indicates the names have been changed
 The figure 7 per cent funding for children’s mental health is based on Save the Children’s analysis using the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) financial tracking system data (accessed on 01/07/2018). The Iraq appeal in total is 57 per cent funded https://ftsbeta.unocha.org/
We all remember the valiant efforts former Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero made to plant flowers in the city in 2015 in the hope that they would grow before Barack Obama’s first visit to Kenya as a sitting President of the United States.
‘Son of Kenya’ coming home aside, it was important that the streets looked spick and span for Obama’s arrival. This was Potus coming.
Then we were amused for days on end afterwards because the flowers failed to grow and Potus just had to make do with stunted magnolia (or were they? Whatever they were, the plants just failed to grow and we had quite a laugh about it — of course at Kidero’s expense.
The joke was funny then but, looking back, I wonder whether it was even necessary to go to such great lengths to plant flowers for just a day’s use.
In a nutshell, the hurried and haphazard way the flowers were planted for Obama’s welcome represents our knee-jerk reaction to issues.
The same could be said of roads that are only repaired and painted before our President’s visits around the country.
It might appear a fitting welcome for the leaders but I can only discern the dishonest way we approach issues. Such efforts are a sheer facade and smokescreen for incompetence — and corruption, perhaps.
Who is fooling who?
Kenya is not immune to organised crime and the latest series of cases of contraband imports and counterfeits should have been smoked out before we were inundated with them.
To have government agencies running helter-skelter after the horse has bolted just shows their lack of preparedness to avert serious matters that have the potential to be a threat to national security.
I won’t be wrong to infer that there is disregard for the rule of law if glaring security breaches occur in the country without a whiff of suspicion from those in charge.
I get this sense that rule of law is mostly understood in our country to begin and end with politics.
Beyond that, it seems, anyone with the wherewithal to break the law can get away with it scot-free regardless of its impact on the society.
The latest incidents of corruption and influx of counterfeits and contraband just show how unprepared we are when it comes to tackling issues that, indeed, have a negative effect on our lives.
We seem keen to do what is right by others to appease the world but fail to realise that respecting the rule of law means doing it right by us so that you and I and future generations end up living in a well-ordered society.
Rule of law means being patriotic to the country by realising that flowers can be grown and roads painted for us first so that we, the citizens, can enjoy the fruits of our labour.
Rule of law means knowing we have a sincere and honest leadership that provides services that are mandated and not just good at rolling out the red carpet for foreign dignitaries to hide those potholes we endure daily.
Knee-jerk reactions manifest the dishonest and cavalier way in which we deal with weighty issues of national importance.
We just throw darts in the dark after disaster happens and hope for the best.
Rule of law is something that the leadership should be drilling into the citizens until it becomes part of their DNA. However, it is difficult to achieve this when MPs are at the forefront of protecting their colleagues caught on the wrong side of the law.
They may chest-thump now and arrogantly justify their sense of wrongdoing, which, incidentally, translates as abuse of power. However, they must remember that there is a time and place when they, too, will be private citizens with no ‘tall’ relative but only the law to their rescue.
When the head is rotten the body is bound to follow suit. When those entrusted to be the custodians of the Constitution and, by extension, uphold the rule of law are the first to break the law, the rest of the country is bound to copy them.
The breakdown is having an impact even on our schools, where students won’t think twice about committing anti-social behaviour with total impunity.
Because having the ability to circumvent the law has trickled down to the level of our children.
Or how else can we explain the disorder in most of our schools, from wanton cheating at exams to burning down dormitories?
A good leadership should be prepared and proactive. Ability to foresee challenges is the hallmark of a good leadership.
Instead of planting that magnolia just that once for Obama and hope on a wing and a prayer that they grow in a day, why not ensure it is planted throughout the year for us all to enjoy? Rule of law is exactly like that.
Living in a well-ordered and prosperous society would always be much more beneficial to all than chaos, anarchy and management by crisis.
Respecting the law is the best example to set for future generations.
ODM leader Raila Odinga and his Nasa co-principals appear to be off the hook after a French firm that supplied information technology equipment during last year’s elections signalled its intention to withdraw a defamation suit against them.
Safran and OT-Morpho, which provided electronic systems that identified Kenyan voters and transmitted last year’s election results, has filed a notice to withdraw the case, which was before High Court Judge Joseph Sergon.
The firm, listed as Idemia Identity and Security France in the case documents, did not however give reasons why it made the decision to withdraw the case against Mr Odinga, Wiper Leader Kalonzo Musyoka, ANC’s Musalia Mudavadi and Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetangula in what may appear as an extension of the handshake to the corridors of justice.
The judge, in his response last Thursday, agreed with the request.
What now remains to be settled is payment of the costs of the suit. The case was filed in the High Court on April 17 by CM Advocates LLP.
“This matter is to be mentioned on July 25 before the deputy registrar for further directions and order on the question touching on costs,” Justice Sergon ordered.
In the suit, the firm together with its managers Laurent Lambert, Alex Lambert and Bavly Farag had sued the three opposition leaders, alongside two media houses — Nation Media Group and Radio Africa — for allegedly publishing defamatory statements made by the trio against it concerning the August 8, 2017 General Election.
The French company says that during and after the election politicians made statements insinuating that it had engaged in irregularities, without bothering to verify the facts and despite knowing the claims they were making were false.
The statements, they added, damaged their reputation as it portrayed them as corrupt and unethical.
The company, in its suit papers, says that articles in question purport that it helped rig the 2017 election, hence, tarnishing its reputation.
They as a result wanted the court to issue an order compelling the media houses and the four politicians to pull down all articles already published on different social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook and online relating to the company and the conduct of the general election.
Mr Odinga, Mr Musyoka and Mr Mudavadi had already filed their responses to the suit while denying allegations raised against the sued parties.
Mr Odinga argued that his statements against the company were made in public interest hence were critical in the advancement of democracy and good governance.
“Mr Odinga has acquired status of an elder statesman and with it the legal, social and moral obligation to champion political, social and economic issues of public interest on behalf of the people of Kenya,” said his lawyers from the firm of Awele & Co. Advocates.
Safran supplied IEBC with the Sh3.8 billion KIEMS kits used to biometrically identify voters during last year’s elections.
Deputy President William Ruto on Sunday said his support for President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2013 and 2017 was not a debt that should be paid by voters in Central Kenya.
Speaking when a number of leaders from the region have vowed not to support him in his 2022 State House bid, Mr Ruto said the debate is unnecessary.
“There has been debate on who owes who what. I want to remind leaders what Paul says in Romans 13:8: ‘Owe no man anything except the debt of love for one another’,” Mr Ruto said.
“That is the debt we all have. No person, community or section of Kenya owes anybody, including myself, anything.”
The Deputy President was speaking at All Saints Cathedral, Nairobi where he gave Sh8 million and pledged Sh2 million more for the construction of a Sh1 billion children and teen centre.
The only debt that should be paid in full, the Deputy President said, is what leaders promised during their campaigns last year.
The talk of political debt and whether Central Kenya — the support base of President Kenyatta — should vote for Mr Ruto in 2022 has hit the headlines recently, with the ruling Jubilee party split right in the middle.
Last week, a Gikuyu song Hatuna Deni ya Mtu (we owe nobody anything) circulated online, presumably as a continuation of the debate on whether the country’s second-in-command deserves a shot at the presidency.
So strong are the emotions in the rival camps that Nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura told NTV last week, that Mt Kenya leaders are being asked to choose between Kieleweke (let it be understood and Tangatanga (loitering) camps.
Tangatanga, he said, stands for those rooting for Mr Ruto’s presidential ambitions, while Kieleweke, a term coined by Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu and who vehemently opposes Mr Ruto’s bid, stands for Mr Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda and national unity in the context of the post-March 9 dispensation after the handshake between the President and opposition leader Raila Odinga.
BIG FOUR AGENDA
It was the same reference made by Nominated MP Maina Kamanda on Saturday when he told some Central Kenya leaders whom he accused of abandoning the Big Four agenda and the fight against corruption “and are in an overdrive of early campaigns for Mr Ruto”.
“Some Mt Kenya leaders hang on the President’s coats to secure their positions but they are now behaving as if they have a bigger master,” Mr Kamanda said in Thuita village, Mathioya constituency.
“They have gone a notch higher to publicly oppose the directive on lifestyle audit. We will not let them disrespect the President.”
During the service on Sunday, Mr Ruto also dismissed those opposed to his contribution of colossal amounts of money, especially to churches.
“We do not go to church as politicians, but as Christians. We have no apologies to make for being Christians,” the Deputy President said.
“None of us is being asked to give beyond our means. When we do, we do so cheerfully and proudly.”
The Deputy President was accompanied by Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka, Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen, Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki and MPs Kimani Ichung’wa (Kikuyu), Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu), Sabina Chege (Murang’a Woman Representative) and Nominated Senator Naomi Waqo.
“Our value systems, it seems, have collapsed and we need to go back to the basics and inculcate the right values in our children,” Mr Lusaka said.
Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula on Sunday criticised those against the 2022 succession debate.
The Bungoma senator said it was absurd for anyone to ask politicians to stop airing comments on 2022 politics, “given that President Uhuru Kenyatta is to retire”.
“It is not possible to avoid talking of 2022. Tomorrow’s journey starts today and you cannot gag people. The Constitution gives Kenyans the right to think, speak and even dream,” he said at St Peter and Paul’s Catholic Church in Kiambu County.
“Saying we should not talk about 2022 is futile.”
Mr Wetang’ula added that there is nothing wrong with politicians declaring their ambitions. The senator said he hopes to become the next president of Kenya.
Mr Wetang’ula, who was accompanied by Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu and Ford-K deputy leader Boni Khalwale, said he would be criss-crossing the country in a bid to win votes.
“The Luhya have in the past worked with Mt Kenya. Masinde Muliro worked with President Jomo Kenyatta, other leaders supported President Mwai Kibaki while Eugene Wamalwa is in the government. When 2022 comes, we will be in Mt Kenya to ask for your help,” he said.
The lawmaker said his party is in merger talks with Musalia Mudavadi’s Amani National Congress.
Mr Wetangu’la said he supports President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga’s building bridges initiative “even though I have reservations about the approach taken by Raila”.
“I, Mudavadi and Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka have no problem with reconciliation. Before the handshake, we consistently called for dialogue,” Mr Wetang’ula told the crowd.
The senator said he supports President Kenyatta’s fight against corruption, saying the war must be won at all costs.
Jubilee Nominated MP Maina Kamanda has accused some of the party’s legislators from the Central region of not supporting President Uhuru Kenyatta’s policies and the war against graft.
The MP said the leaders are campaigning for Deputy President William Ruto’s 2022 presidential bid instead of supporting the President’s efforts to implement the “Big Four” agenda.
Speaking at his Thuita village in Mathioya Constituency, Mr Kamanda said: “Most of the Mt Kenya leaders rode on the President’s coattails to secure their positions but they are now behaving as if they have a bigger master than him. They have even publicly opposed his directive on a lifestyle audit. We will not let them disrespect the Head of State.”
Referring to Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen’s opposition to lifestyle audits, Mr Kamanda said the leaders should stop showing disrespect to the President and support the fight against corruption. He claimed that some of the leaders have been paid to campaign for the 2022 General Election. Mr Kamanda called for a constitutional amendment, saying it is necessary if the 2022 General Election is to be free and fair. “The Constitution should be amended to ensure that the IEBC is in charge of party primaries,” he said.
He urged experienced leaders to call for dialogue and guide the MPs a nd senators. “Mt Kenya leaders should meet and advise the youthful legislators to return to normalcy,” Mr Kamanda said.
He said there has never been a fair general election, adding that the last election was massively rigged, denying the electorate their preferred leaders.
“The Constitution should be amended to ensure that Independent and Electoral Boundaries Commission is in charge of party primaries,” Mr Kamanda said.
The Task Force on Coffee has proposed the establishment of the Nairobi Coffee Exchange in a bid to revive the sub-sector.
The new body will have control over finances and formulation of policies to govern trading in the product.
The Exchange, which will be headquartered in Nairobi, will have powers to establish the auction system under which coffee is offered for sale and provide a platform for the trading of coffee.
It will also establish, promote, develop, support and carry on the business of coffee exchange.
Details of this push to revive the coffee sub-sector are contained in the Coffee (General) Regulations, 2018, presented to the Senate Committee on Agriculture by the Coffee Sector Implementation Committee, which was established to explore ways of reviving coffee production.
According to the report, the Exchange will ensure an efficient and expedited settlement and payment process of coffee proceeds to growers and their service providers.
President Uhuru Kenyatta established the committee to investigate the problems in the sector and also align the sub-sector’s regulations with the constitution, the Crops Act and provide for the functions of the county government and protection of the growers rights along the value chain.
The Commissioner of Cooperatives Mary Mungai told the Senate Committee on Agriculture on Thursday that the decision to establish the Exchange had been arrived after it emerged that the traditional coffee auction lacks transparency.
“We have established a direct settlement system. Money will be paid to the growers account directly from the bank. Now it goes through commercial marketing agencies, but it had proved to be an inefficient system,” she Ms Mungai.
She said the committee had benchmarked with the tea industry where the growers receive payment from the auction.
The regulations have abolished the system of marketing agencies, which has been abused in the past.
The regulations gives farmers the power to sale clean coffee on mutually accepted terms and conditions enforceable in law.