The removal of landmines and other explosive remnants of war (ERW) in Sudan will grind to a halt next month unless money is found to keep operations going, especially around Malakal in Upper Nile State and Kassala in the east, says an official.
“The plan was that we clear areas where there is a high threat before handing over to the national authorities in June 2011,” said Evans Omari, senior programme officer for the UN Mine Action Office in Sudan (UNMAO). “We will not be able to continue from July to December if we do not get additional money.”
The agency urgently requires US$12 million. Lack of funds, it said, would deter the return of internally displaced persons, hinder economic and social activities, and give room for more landmine-related accidents.
“In Malakal, there is a constant flow of returnees, and many are coming back to live or farm in minefields,” Omari told IRIN on 10 May. “Last month, four people died and others got serious injuries. In Kassala, there is a lot of movement between Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan because it is one of the main transitional areas.”
A recent landmine impact survey identified 320 more suspected hazardous areas. "These are areas where somebody's cow has been blown up or some incident has been reported," he added. "We need to verify the threat in all these areas."
More than 20 years of conflict left 19 out of the 25 states affected by mines or ERW. These include unexploded ordnance, such as bombs, mortars, grenades, missiles and cluster munitions, and "abandoned ordnance" or weapons left behind by armed forces when they leave an area.
In March, for example, five children died when a hand grenade they had picked up exploded in Kodok township, Fashoda County in Upper Nile State. The two girls and three boys were aged four to 11, the county deputy commissioner Joseph William Kwol, told the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS).
"There are some areas in Kodok where landmines are just lying on the surface," Kwol told UNMIS. "It would be easy for kids to pick them up and play with them." The township experienced a significant amount of fighting during the civil war, and has abandoned grenades in two fields to the south.
According to Sudanese officials, major routes have been cleared but there are still areas where the devices threaten civilians and affect aid or development efforts, especially in Central Equatoria State, South Kordofan and Kassala. Margaret Mathew Mathiang, deputy chair of the South Sudan De-mining Authority, told IRIN in February that the situation had also hampered the return of refugees.
The true extent of Sudan’s mine and ERW problem is unknown, according to UNMAO. Together with its partners, such as Norwegian People's Aid, it has opened up more than 39,819km of road, cleared more than 59,799,476 sqm of land, and destroyed 25,220 mines and 876,552 pieces of unexploded ordnance.
With the UN Children's Fund, it has offered mine-risk education to about 3.2 million people.
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