Mine Action responds to South Sudan crisis
4 April 2014 - The UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) had adapted its programme in South Sudan to respond to evolving needs during the current crisis, the organization’s programme manager, Lance Malin, said today in a statement.
“(We) will continue to respond to the ongoing crisis as it evolves through clearance, route verification and risk education in the areas of greatest need and as access allows,” said Mr. Malin, as the country marked International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.
Observed annually on 4 April, the Day calls for continued efforts to establish and develop national mine-action capacities in countries where mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) remain a serious threat to the safety, health and lives of civilians.
UNMAS, which has been operating in South Sudan for nine years, would continue to work with UNMISS to clear contaminated areas created from past and ongoing conflicts, Mr. Malin said.
“Although much has been accomplished by UNMAS in reducing the threat and impact of landmines and Explosive Remnants of War, there remains work to be done,” he said. “(Some) 740 known hazards still exist.”
Following the current crisis, UNMAS had cleared all UNMISS protection sites of unexploded ordnances and was continuing to clear expansion areas at the sites, he said.
“UNMAS also has begun clearance of (the Unity State capital) Bentiu and (Jonglei State capital) Bor,” said Mr. Malin. “This clearance is critical for the safety of civilians returning home.”
A joint press release from UNMISS and UNMAS said the focus of mine awareness day this year was on delivering life-saving risk education messages in the country through public service announcements, radio interviews and posters.
The National Mine Action Authority, in collaboration with UNICEF and UNMAS, organized a mine risk education quiz in schools around Juba to raise awareness among children.
The statement noted that UNMAS, working with partners and in collaboration with UNMISS, had closed 8,111 hazards as well as cleared and released over 1,120 square kilometres of land since arriving in the country.
Other achievements included clearing 23,000 kilometres of roads and destroying 32,000 mines, 840,000 unexploded ordnance and over 2 million items of small ammunition. It had also provided mine risk education to two million people.
The United Nations has a proud record of helping millions of people in mine-affected countries,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his message for the Day. “On this International Day, let us resolve to mobilize the resources, partners and resolve we need to further advance our vision of a planet free from mines.”