UNMAS celebrates International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action: “Peace without mine action is incomplete peace”
Unnecessarily cute sniffer dogs, interactive demonstrations of mine action work, an exuberant photo exhibition, a Japanese cultural performance and the launch of a catchy mine awareness song. Juba was treated to all of it, and more, as the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) celebrated its 20th anniversary and the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.
Those who attended the commemoration of the annual Mine Action Day at UN House were in for a veritable smorgasbord of exhibits, videos, music, astronaut-looking deminers in action, heavy-duty machinery and the ever-present speeches. The only thing missing was a proper detonation and resulting KABOOM, but that was to some extent made up for with the unlikely appearance of a rather scary dragon.
The dragon was carried and accompanied by members of the UNMISS Japanese Engineering Contingent, who kicked off the day by performing a traditional song and dance from the northeastern part of their home country. The whole spectacle was led by an enthusiastic, megaphone-equipped man who would make most cheerleaders look stale and indifferent.
Neither UNMAS programme manager Tim Lardner, nor UNMISS chief David Shearer needed a megaphone to get their messages across. Both made good use of the impressive numbers demonstrating the hard and vital efforts of UNMAS in the country (see facts below), and the former also quoted the message of the UN Secretary-General on the day:
“Peace without mine action is incomplete peace,” Mr. Lardner said before adding a bit of sobering national context:
“In South Sudan, five hazardous, potentially contaminated (by mines or other unexploded ordnance, UXO) areas are discovered every day. This goes to show that our work is certainly ongoing, and expanding.”
The efforts of UNMAS goes very much hand in hand with those of UNMISS, especially when it comes to its core activities such as protection of civilians and enabling access for humanitarian assistance. By clearing areas of potentially lethal explosives, roads can be travelled, aid and goods transported, soil used for farming and civilians, inside or outside protection of civilians sites, can go about their daily lives in general.
In fact, and as observed by David Shearer, the same goes for UNMISS peacekeepers, also mere mortals vulnerable to hidden dangers:
“After the July 2016 crisis, the work of UNMAS was critical for the Mission. By clearing all UNMISS premises in just three days we could resume our work.”
By the looks of it, the girls of the Giada Girls Primary School and South Sudanese musicians The Jay Family spent a fair bit more time than that rehearsing their performance of the brand new mine awareness song Beware.
The schoolgirls composing the catchy tune were the winners of the UNMAS Risk Factor competition, and they certainly did not let anyone down. With a musical bang and much prowess, Be Aware was introduced to the world and there was, indeed, much rejoicing.
Links to photos, video and other relevant material
Assorted UNMAS facts and stats in South Sudan
- Since 2004, UNMAS has destroyed nearly 4 million explosive devices, including over 36,000 mines and 900,000 items of unexploded ordnance (UXO), thus releasing more than 1.17 billion square metres of land for productive use.
- UNMAS has surveyed and cleared total of more than 27,000 kilometres of road.
- Since 2004, 620 ammunition stockpiles and dumps have been destroyed.
- More than 3 million people, including UNMISS personnel, have been given mine risk education. They are better equipped to recognize, avoid and report explosive hazards.
- UNMAS uses both explosive detection dogs and mine detection dogs as part of its operations in the country.
- During 2016, every month an average of 140 previously unknown hazardous areas were identified. The full extent of contamination by dangerous mines and UXOs is unknown, with large areas of the country requiring survey. Free access to potentially hazardous areas is vital, but not always given.