June 12, 2011

Anne Applebaum’s June 7 op-ed column, “A bet on stalemate,” talked about the strategic value of a long stalemate in Libya, but for the women and children caught up in the ongoing bloody conflict, the longer the stalemate, the more devastating the consequences.

During the past four months, after popular protests against the regime erupted, tens of thousands of children have been traumatized by direct exposure to violence in which some of them were killed or maimed.

Many Libyan children have been trapped inside their homes, unable to go to school or even to play outside. The firing of guns continues to be a daily occurrence in Benghazi, and bombing is heard by children and their mothers in Tripoli.

This month three members of one family were killed and another two injured in Ajdabiya when a child brought home a piece of unexploded ordnance.

I witnessed two children, 14 years and 9 years old, who were brought into Benghazi from Misurata on a boat with severe injuries. They had been playing in the street, something all children should be able to enjoy in safety, when an object they picked up exploded. The older boy lost both his hands.

UNICEF and some partner organizations are supporting educational programs in Benghazi to raise awareness of these deadly weapons. These programs urgently need to be be expanded into Misurata and across Libya.

The faster this conflict is brought to an end acceptable to the Libyan people, the lower the price that civilians pay in blood, limbs and the loss of loved ones.

Rebecca Fordham, Benghazi, Libya

The writer is a communications specialist with the UNICEF Libya Emergency Response.