Keeping peace, through demining

A UNIFIL Cambodian deminer carefully clears vegetation in a mine risk area near Rmeish.

A UNIFIL Cambodian deminer carefully clears vegetation in a mine risk area near Rmeish.

A Cambodian deminer watches as his colleague works along the Blue Line.

A Cambodian peacekeeper carries out the dangerous demining work with utmost care.

A team of Chinese deminers along the Blue Line.

A Chinese deminer pauses as he checks the ground in front of him.

 A Chinese deminer works along the Blue Line near Rmeish.

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19 Jan 2018

Keeping peace, through demining

Peacekeeping is not just about patrolling and reconnaissance missions. It also means working to create a condition whereby the residents live in peace and go about their business.

In UNIFIL, peacekeepers work day and night, together with the Lebanese authorities, in creating the conditions conducive for the population to build their future. One of the notable successes of the peacekeepers has been the clearing of large swathes of minefields in south Lebanon, allowing the rightful owners to return to their land and till it.

Take, for example, on 8 January 2018, UNIFIL deminers from China and Cambodia found and destroyed 22 deadly anti-personnel mines in Yaroun, clearing 31 square metres of land – all in a day’s work.

Within four years since 2006, when south Lebanon last experienced a major war, demining constituted UNIFIL’s major operation, working together with the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and the Lebanon Mine Action Centre (LMAC). The peacekeepers cleared 4.6 million square metres of mine-filled land by detecting and destroying more than 32,600 cluster bombs and other explosive remnants of war (ERW) within the 1,060 square kilometre UNIFIL area of operation. The operation continues to date.

In addition, the peacekeepers have cleared over 114,125 square metres of land and destroyed over 3,501 landmines to support the UN Mission’s efforts to mark the Blue Line and to ensure the safety of local residents as well as the UN peacekeepers around 55 UN bases.

In 2017 alone, UNIFIL demining teams cleared 2,693 square metres of land and destroyed 317 anti-personnel mines around UN positions throughout south Lebanon.

In a recent interview, the Mayor of a small town in south Lebanon, Blida, said that at the end of the 2006 war, the entire village was littered with cluster bombs. “We could not move from one house to another because of the cluster bombs,” said the Mayor, Hassan Abed El Rassoul Hijazi.

He stressed the importance of clearing all minefields because “we are an agricultural country and 80 per cent of the people depend on agriculture, livestock and cattle.” If a farmer cannot benefit from his land, he added, “his conditions become very difficult.” Mr. Hijazi added that UNIFIL’s presence “has had a positive impact” in this regard.

So far, UNIFIL deminers have come from Belgium, Cambodia, China, Finland, France, Italy and Spain. UNIFIL’s current demining team – from Cambodia and China – is 145-person strong, including support staff.

At an event marking the International Day for Mine Awareness (4 April) last year, UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander Major General Michael Beary said mines are of concern in the UNIFIL area of operations and along the Blue Line, which still 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,” the UNIFIL head remarked. “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.”

Educating the local population and the children, who are especially vulnerable to the dangers of mines, is critical. In 2017 alone, UNMAS Lebanon, in close coordination with UNIFIL and in support of LMAC, provided mine risk education classes to 2,560 children throughout south Lebanon.


Article: Tilak Pokharel
Video camera: Mohamad Hamze
Video Editor: Suzane Badereddine
Motion Graphics: Zeina Ezzeddine
Photo: Pascual Gorriz