The Kilo-18 displacement camp near Ramadi has opened an education and rehabilitation centre to help children from displaced families heal from the trauma inflicted by the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL).
"The centre consists of three large trailers attached to the camp that contain essential educational tools, toys and health services, and can accommodate 350 children between the ages of 3 and 10," said centre director Jabbar Hamid.
"The centre used to be just a small tent," he told Diyaruna.
With the co-operation of the Ramadi administration and various humanitarian organisations, the centre has been transformed, he said, offering education and rehabilitation services under the supervision of professional teachers.
"By building this centre, we aim to erase the traces and mental repercussions left by terrorism in the children's' souls, including the forced displacement and scenes of killing, intimidation and violence they have experienced during ISIL's control over their areas," Hamid said.
The new centre, serving Kilo-18 camp west of Ramadi, seeks to provide children with a solid foundation, he said.
Its staff hopes "to correct wrong concepts and behaviours, focusing on noble human values such as collective co-operation, love of charity, tolerance, honesty and elimination of violence and all signs of cruelty", he added.
"We also seek to enhance the children's skills, develop their talents and abilities, and improve their level of education, since they are the nucleus of society and the men of tomorrow, and we must take care of them so they become individuals capable of serving their country," he said.
A better environment for children
"The opening of the centre is a step to create a better psychological and social environment for children from displaced families in the Kilo-18 camp that will give them an ability to overcome the harsh conditions they have suffered as the result of terrorism," Ramadi governor Ibrahim al-Awsaj told Diyaruna.
Opened with help from UNICEF, the centre includes a cadre of social workers who will instill positive values "that leave no place for the extremism, hatred and despair that are burned into the minds and souls of terrorists", he said.
Kilo-18 is currently accommodating around 1,350 families, mostly displaced from villages to the west of Ramadi and Heet, al-Awsaj said.
"Children in the camp [...] have lived for two whole years under the control of ISIL elements, who tried to plant all that is ugly and dark in our children's minds," he said.
"It is our responsibility now to make our utmost effort to enable those children to live with new ideas, a new mentality and a new life, so that they can build their country and help develop it," he added.
Many schools damaged or destroyed
"ISIL has greatly damaged the education infrastructure in Ramadi," al-Awsaj said, noting that 31 schools were destroyed and a further 120 were damaged.
"The UN Development Programme (UNDP) has helped us rehabilitate five affected schools, and our local administration has a plan to build 10 schools in temporary facilities in Ramadi before the new academic year starts," he said.
Al-Awsaj urged government authorities and humanitarian organisations to help his administration rebuild the city's education sector.
"The education centre in the Kilo-18 camp is the first centre to be opened in Anbar for the psychological rehabilitation of children from displaced families and for raising their educational and cognitive abilities," said Mohammed Rashid, director of the Ministry of Migration and Displacement's office in Anbar.
"Our ministry is working, on its part, to help and support all families living in the camp by meeting their needs and those of their children for food, living necessities, relief materials and various housing services," he told Diyaruna.
"We have plans to expand the camp to accommodate higher numbers of displaced families, especially as fighting continues to drive ISIL elements out of their last strongholds in Anbar," Rashid said.
"I have two children whom I intend to enroll in the centre," said Qais al-Dulaimi, 19, a displaced Iraqi who lives in Kilo-18 camp, describing the decision to open the centre as a "good move".
"I call on the government to pay us more attention, improve our situation and bring us back to our areas soon," he told Diyaruna.