(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Landmine awareness campaign targets IDPs

A Yemeni mine expert gathers rocks to mark an area suspected of having mines in Harf Sufyan District, Amran Governorate
Adel Yahya/IRIN

A mine risk education campaign aimed at targeting a sizeable portion of the roughly 238,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in three Yemeni governorates - Saada, Hajja and Amran - started on 7 March.

Three teams of five members of the National Mine Action Programme (NMAP) - jointly run by the National Mine Action Committee (NMAC) and UN Development Programme (UNDP) - started distributing leaflets to IDPs in camps.

According to UN agencies, fewer than 30 percent of Yemen’s estimated 250,000 IDPs live in camps.

"The campaign will last up to 18 days initially, and after that, other mine-affected communities will be targeted, depending on funds," NMAP director Mansour al-Azi told IRIN, explaining that he expected the first 13 days of the campaign to be devoted to IDP camps.

In the wake of a recent ceasefire agreement, and as people begin to return to their homes, there is an urgent need to warn people of the dangers posed by landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO), according to UNDP.

The campaign is a joint effort of NMAC, the Social Affairs & Labour Ministry, UNDP, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Save the Children and some local NGOs.

It will include radio and TV messages, banners, posters and leaflets, workshops, and peer group education at schools in the three governorates. "Children who do not attend school will be reached through children’s and youth centres in IDP camps," UNDP said.

The Interior Ministry said that since the mid-February ceasefire between the army and Houthi-led rebels, at least five people have been killed and 20 injured (mostly children) in Saada Governorate by landmines or UXO, especially in the area of Malahidh, a town in the southwestern part of the governorate.

Member of parliament Mohammed al-Hawri, who chairs a committee in charge of supervising the ceasefire in the northern part of Saada, urged the clearance of heavily contaminated areas before the rainy season.

"The rainy season is the most dangerous because floods can shift mines," he said.

[Yemen] UXOs recovered from the Yemeni countryside.

UXOs recovered from the Yemeni countryside.
Yemen's Executive Mine Action Centre...
[Yemen] UXOs recovered from the Yemeni countryside.
Tuesday, December 7, 2004
Mines links and references
[Yemen] UXOs recovered from the Yemeni countryside.

Photo: Yemen's Executive Mine Action Centre
UXOs previously recovered from the Yemeni countryside (file photo)

Years of conflict

Yemen is contaminated with mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) as a result of armed conflicts from 1962–1969, 1970–1983, and in 1994. Most of the mines were laid prior to uni?cation in border areas between northern and southern Yemen, according to the Landmine Monitor Report (LMR) 2009.

Since the Houthi-led insurgency in June 2004, there have been allegations of landmine use by government troops and rebels in Saada Governorate, with the government and the rebels accusing each other of laying them, said the report.

There have been some reported 5,000 mine/ERW casualties in Yemen since 1962. "In all years, except 2005, women and children make up a significance percentage of the casualties," the report said.

NMAP’s Al-Azi said 74 deminers had been injured and 57 killed since 2000. "Every Yemeni governorate, except for Mahweet [some 90km west of the capital Sanaa], has a problem with mines."

There are 827,000 people countrywide living next to land affected by landmines, he said. "Since we started the [landmine awareness] programme in 2000, we have reached 670,542 of them and educated them about mine risks."

NMAP has surveyed and cleared 691,838,911 square metres out of the 923,000,000 square metres of land affected, or suspected of being affected, by mines, and the rest is in the process of clearance.

The Yemeni government estimated US$32 million was needed for mine clearance in the five years to 2014, but this did not include landmine awareness drives and victim assistance.

Yemen joined the Mine Ban Treaty in 1999 and needs to get rid of all landmines and ERW by 1 March 2015.


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