Challenges and progress highlighted at event marking International Day for Mine Awareness
Challenges and progress in clearing explosive remnants of war (ERW) and unexploded ordnances (UXOs) in south Lebanon were the highlights of an event organized today to observe the International Day for Mine Awareness.
Addressing the event at the UNIFIL Headquarters in Naqoura, the UN Mission’s head and Force Commander, Major General Michael Beary, said mines are of concern in the UNIFIL Area of Operations (AO) and along the Blue Line, which account for approximately 1,000 minefields.
“Given its often-troubled history, Lebanon is one of the countries whose civilian population continue to be threatened by the scourge of mines,” said the UNIFIL head, while commending the work of UNIFIL’s Cambodian and Chinese engineers, who are responsible for mine clearance in south Lebanon.
“It is clear that locating, removing and destroying these hazards, saves lives and is a prerequisite for the restoration of normal day-to-day activity in post conflict areas,” Major General Beary added.
Despite challenges, there have been notable successes in clearing mines in UNIFIL AO. Since 2006, UNIFIL deminers, working closely with UNMAS, have cleared 4,678,997 square metre of cluster strike areas along with 104,901 square metre of areas contaminated with landmines in the AO. Moreover, 35,785 explosive devices have been destroyed during clearance operations.
Addressing today’s ceremony, UNMAS Programme Manager for Lebanon, Henri Francois Morand, paid tribute to UNIFIL peacekeepers who made the ultimate sacrifice while clearing mines in south Lebanon.
“Today we re-affirm our commitment to continue our efforts with our Lebanese colleagues to creating a safer environment for the population of South Lebanon,” said Mr. Morand.
UNMAS works closely with UNIFIL, the Lebanon Mine Action Centre (LMAC) and Mine Action Group to provide mine risk education in schools across the AO, highlighting the dangers of ERWs and UXOs. About 150 schoolchildren participated in an event in Blat Public School on 30 March.
One of the students, Cedra Abdel Dayem, said she learnt that whenever she sees something unusual she should not touch it and should report it immediately. “I also learned that if I find something strange while playing, I should tell somebody older than me about it,” she added.
Mr. Morand of UNMAS said Lebanon has been brutalized by decades of war and one can find mines, UXOs and cluster bombs in a very dense environment. “So I think it’s very important to teach the young generation about this danger, because the kids, like all the kids in the world, like playing outside,” added Mr. Morand.
At the request of the UN General Assembly, the 4th of April has been observed, since 2006, as the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.
Article: Tilak Pokharel
Video camera: Aoibheann O’Sullivan and Mohamad Hamze
Video Editor: Aoibheann O’Sullivan and Suzane Baderddine
Stills: Pascual Gorriz