Dog training and mine coordination centre opens in Juba

4 Apr 2012

Dog training and mine coordination centre opens in Juba

4 April 2012 - A facility to train dogs in detecting landmines was opened today by the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre (UNMACC) and South African demining organization MECHEM in the South Sudanese capital Juba.

UN Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan Lise Grande said that the facility's launch, part of Mine Action Day celebrations, was a positive step towards eradicating landmines and boosting development in South Sudan.

"Mines are a legacy of the long civil war, and many areas in South Sudan are infested with landmines and unexploded ordnance," Ms. Grande said. "In those areas, communities can't be rebuilt, people can't get to the market, and they can't do agricultural work."

Those remnants had led to tragic and indiscriminate loss of lives and injuries for many local people, said UNMACC Deputy Programme Manager Michael Raine.
Ingemar Anderka, operations manager for MECHEM, said the major challenge they faced was the re-mining of already cleared lands in Unity State and along the border with Sudan.

Ms. Grande said the re-mining had prevented humanitarian agencies from reaching people in need of food and medical assistance.

"The important thing is that we have surveys of where the mines are," she said. "So even if it takes a little bit of time to get to them, if people know where the mines are, they know to stay away from them."

The facility, in an area called Jebel Kujur, will also serve as a coordination centre for mine action operations nation-wide.

Currently, about 49 demining organizations operate in South Sudan. Their work includes community liaison, mine risk education, mine clearance and mine detection using dogs.

MECHEM has trained 16 mine-detecting dogs and cleared over 400 kilometres of roads in northern Unity State, enabling humanitarian agencies like the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and World Food Programme to deliver humanitarian assistance safely.

"We want to see to it that the UNMACC has the ability to continue to respond quickly, efficiently, and in the most cost-effective manner to support ... people of South Sudan," Mr. Raine said.