14 September 2011

Shattered lives to stronger future

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.Photo credit: John Rodsted/CMCJohn Rodsted, member of CMC Australia and long-time campaigner on cluster munitions, is the CMC photographer at the Second Meeting of States Parties in Beirut. He has over 25 years experience working as a freelance photographer in conflict zones, including Lebanon in 2006 and 2007. Rodsted attended the official field visit to the Sarafand rehabilitation center on Monday 12 September and shares his experience below.***The summer of 2006 saw a maelstrom of violence unleashed upon Lebanon. The Israeli military delivered an estimated 4 million sub munitions into Southern Lebanon in the closing days of that conflict.Sub munitions or ‘cluster bomblets’ rained over the south reaping death and destruction. Hundreds of thousands of them failed to explode. These dangerous legacies now lie in wait for the footfall of a civilian or the curious fingers of a child. The simple and innocent activities of daily life can now be life threatening.Rasha Zayyoun survived the war. It’s the peace she couldn’t get through. In the months after the bombing the civilian population gently tried to put their lives back together. Food was a priority and getting it the greatest challenge. In a country that relies heavily on agriculture, the simple tasks of entering the garden or herding the stock became life threatening.As a child, Rasha was kept close to the family as her brothers and father chased the sheep and collected the vegetables. Rasha and her mother would prepare the food and hope nothing would happen to those outside.With the day’s fresh vegetables safely into the house Rasha was pulling the leaves off a thyme bush when she saw a small piece of ribbon. She pulled it out, it was a cluster bomblet and it detonated, shattering her leg and spinning her life into one of pain and disability.I was working in Lebanon in 2006 and 2007 and met Rasha just after she was injured. She was a timid and scared young girl. She sat curled in the corner with pained angry eyes refusing to talk as I spoke with her mother. What her future held was anyone’s guess.The Second Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions is now being held in Beirut. It’s a meeting that looks at the progress of the convention that bans cluster munitions for all time. It’s my first return to Lebanon since 2007.The Sarafand rehabilitation centre is one of the main facilities for the rehabilitation of those injured by cluster bomblets. It has dealt with most of those injured in the south since the war in 2006. The director met us and walked us through the centre introducing us to some of the patients. The rehabilitation they were receiving ranged from physical and prosthetics to psychosocial. They understood that victims of cluster bomblets were not just damaged physically but mentally too.From the group of patients a small face beamed at me - and it was Rasha. She recognised me and I her. The big difference was her smile. She had come a long way since being injured."I now have a new leg and no one teases me anymore" Rasha said with a grin, "I see my friends and go to school, I am learning many things".At the centre she was learning how to make jewelry and ceramics and found a supporting community that was there for her. The change in her personality since the war was marked.The war has now been over for five years. Rasha will never get her leg back but with care and support she will have a future. The Sarafand rehabilitation will be a key part of that.