UNMAS in South Sudan 3
THEUNITED NATIONS MINE ACTION SERVICE
TheUnited Nations Mine Action Service
Eachyear, thousands of people are maimed, injured and killed by landminesacross the world. In 2013, more than 65 states were affected bylandmine (UNMISS,2015). These dangerous devices ravage individuals and communities alike byclosing roads, hampering access to learning institutions and placesof work. They also prevent economic and social activities,effectively denying civilians normal lives and means of livelihood(Buckley,2012). Before government agencies embark on the reconstruction after anarmed conflict, it is important that landmines are removed. Toachieve this goal UNMAS has become a global campaigner and supporterof landmine elimination.
UNMASin South Sudan
InJuly 2011, South Sudan became the newest country, after more thanfive decades of civil war and a six year peace agreement phase.Landmines were some of the armaments that both parties into theprotracted conflict were using to interrupt enemy activities (UNMISS,2015).As the war continued the contamination of land with explosivecontinued to surge, that resulted to widespread explosive hazard thatfronts a danger to the people of the South Sudan. Many people areinjured and killed by accidents and efforts from the internationalcommunity to give humanitarian help are stalled by the risk of mines(Fimister,2005).The economic and social cost on hampered agricultural production hascaused food insecurity and halted trade in the region.
In2013 forces allied to the incumbent president Salva kiir and hisdeputy Riek Machar started an armed conflict, that spread to thewhole nation and that has continued is some locations in spite of thevarious ceasefire agreements between the two warring parties (UnitedNations, 2013).The on-going armed conflict in piling up the contamination in urbanareas, on infrastructures such as roads, airfields and even aroundUnited Nations facilities. This additional danger poses a threat tothe lives of more than 1.5 displaced people, local communities, UNand AU peacekeepers and humanitarian workers from various agencies(UNMISS,2015).
UnitedNations Mine Action Service plays a critical role to enable the lifesaving work of the UN mission in the republic of South Sudan andother humanitarian agencies. Prior to the outbreak of the armedconflict in 2013, UNMAS had been able to clear more than 8,000hazardous areas (UNMISS,2015).The body has also managed to release 1,124,406,403 meters of land,and had opened more than 22,000 kilometers of road, in addition tosupporting mine risk education for more than 2 million beneficiaries(UnitedNations, 2013).
UNMAShas been responding to all the incidents of explosive arsenal inareas occupied by civilians fleeing from the war torn areas andaround United Nations bases. UNMAS has initiated clearance programthat are meant to ensure the safe return of civilians to their homes (UNMISS,2015).UNMAS has also been evaluating major roads to make them accessible tothe UN peacekeepers and humanitarian workers.
InSouth Sudan UNMAS has attained the following:
UNMASguards people by offering explosive detection dogs at various areassuspected with landmines. Since the team began working in January2014, it has searched more than 600 areas (UNMISS,2015).
Figure1:UN Mine Action Service working in South Sudan
In2014, UNMAS demarcated and blocked 1320 hazardous areas, releasingmore than 9,000,000m2 of land back to the communities. It has alsofacilitated infrastructural developments programs, economicactivities and access to humanitarian agencies (UNMISS,2015).Throughroute evaluation and verification, UNMAS has opened 407 kilometers ofroad and synchronized mine risk education for 167,655 peopleparticularly targeting susceptible groups (UNMISS,2015).
Figure2: AWoman Walking in a Zone Demarcated By UNMAS as Danger Zone
Buildinga national and sustainable mine action capability has been at the topof UNMAS agenda in South Sudan (UNMAS,2012). Towardsthis objective, the mine action program is presently executing theSouth Sudan Mine Action Transition plan, whereby the United Nationsrole in the process shifts from implementing role to a technical andadvisory support role (UNMAS,2012). Atransition team made of a technical advisor from UNMAS and two fromNPA will work in close coordination to develop capacity and areas oftraining.
Landmineeffects survey was completed in 2013 in all the 10 states of SouthSudan. Nonetheless, 15% of all the known hazardous regions are yet tobe addressed, and this delay has solely been caused by the armedconflict that has continued, even with the many ceasefire agreementbetween the warring factions (UNMAS,2012).Moreover, rebel militia factions have been reported to re-mine someareas along the bounder of Sudan and South Sudan.
Figure3: UN Mine Action Serviceworking South Sudan
SouthSudan effectively became a signatory to the convection on theprohibition of the use of stockpiling, manufacture and sale ofanti-personnel mines and on their destruction. In this light, UNMASsupervised the destruction of more than 6000 stock piled mines in2008 in Juba (UNMAS,2012). SouthSudan has met the set requirement of the stockpile production andtransfer.
Minerisk education is a elemental element of the mine action program inSouth Sudan. Mine risk education continues to be offered to thousandsof beneficiaries in different parts of South Sudan, especially thoseat a greater risk such as South Sudanese who have been displaced fromtheir homes and refugees (UNMAS,2012).Voluntary contribution of UNMAS played a key role in ensuring experttechnical help was offered to help with sector coordination, andcapacity building. UNMAS has been working with the ministry ofeducation in South Sudan to help incorporate mine risk education intothe school curriculum (SoudanMine lab back in action, 2011).This is meant to significantly increase awareness in the country andincrease the number of children who get such messages (UNMAS,2012).
Thelandmine safety project plays a key role in the prevention of mineand explosive incidents among aid staff, government, UN agencies thatwork in high risk regions through landmine safety briefings andtraining workshops (UNMAS,2012).
Figure4: UNMASClearing Routes in South Soudan
Victimassistance program are primarily run by local non-governmentalorganizations and international agencies. Survivors and injuredpeople benefit from these organizations immensely, through mobilityaids, and income generating activities. UNMAS has also formed aLandmine Survivor Association meant to offer a more coordinatedvictim assistance response (UNMAS,2012).
MainObjectives of the UNMAS going Forward
UNMASwill focus on four main humanitarian priorities, that were alsoidentified by the Security Council in 2013: Opening up key roads andtransport routes for humanitarian aid activities, and safe andsustainable return if internally displaced people, conductingemergency surveys and clearance strengthening the capacity of thecountry demining activities and providing mine risk educationespecially for internally displaced persons (Fimister,2015).
Themain challenge facing UNMASS is lack proper infrastructure andinaccessibility to vast regions during the unpredictable rainyseason. The current fragile security status in South Sudan has alsopresented a huge challenge in conducting emergency mine actions adinterventions. The on-going war has also compounded the alreadycomplex equation by adding new contamination that pose immense riskto lives and livelihood (Fimister,2015).
Inthe face of inadequate resources and risks presented by the fragilesecurity in South Sudan, UNMAS can call upon developed nations toincrease their voluntary trust fund to facilitate various mineactions. Japan, South Korea and Italy have contributed immenselytowards mine actions in South Sudan and if other nations were tocontribute to the voluntary fund, UNMAS would be in a position toovercome some of the challenges on the ground. UNMAS should formulatemeasures to prevent further placing of landmines by rebels ofopposing factions. UNMAS should mobilize groups to all regions wherethere is fighting and ensure security of humanitarian compounds. Clearance should also be extended to urban areas to remove dangerousitems left by rebels and other fighting groups.
UNMASshould also realign its operation and resources to react to thecrisis that has engulfed South Sudan to attain fundamental mandatessuch as civilian protection. Many people still die in different partsof the country due to lack of awareness of the areas with mines.
Buckley,A 2012, UnitedNations Mine Action Service.The Journal of ERW & Mine Action, issue 16.2 Retrieved from: http://www.jmu.edu/cisr/journal/16.2/profile/unmas/unmas.shtml
Fimister,A 2015, Humanitarian mine clearance: still beyond technology?.Proceedingsof The ICE – Civil Engineering, 158(1), 36-40.http://dx.doi.org/10.1680/cien.2005.158.1.36
SoudanMine lab back in action 2011. PhysicsWorld, 24(07), 9-9.http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/2058-7058/24/07/20
UnitedNations 2013. AboutUNMAS in South Sudan.Retrieved from: http://www.mineaction.org/news
UNMAS2012. UNMASMine Action Programming Handbook.Retrieved from:http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Full_Report_3289.pdf
UNMISS2015. UnitedNations Mine Action Service (UNMAS).Retrieved from:https://unmiss.unmissions.org/Default.aspx?tabid=5408&language=en-US