A new Handicap International report, “Bombs under the rubble,” evaluates the Gazan population’s awareness of the presence of explosive remnants of war. The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) estimates that there are at least 7,000 unexploded devices and munitions, mainly mixed in with the rubble, following the conflict between July 7 and August 26, 2014. According to the report, almost half of the people interviewed reported feelings of fear on a daily basis due to the presence of bombs. A total of 45% had benefited from education about awareness-raising actions.
“Bombs under the rubble,” found that 47% of people interviewed in Gaza considered explosive remnants to be a constant cause for concern in their daily lives. Forty-five percent had received training about the risks posed by explosive remnants of war, which include different types of unexploded devices — weapons which remain in place after an armed conflict ends (eg, grenades, shells, rockets and cluster munitions). However, the report also reveals significant shortcomings. While 70% of respondents know how to report an explosive remnant of war, only 29% have actually done so.
"The reconstruction work in Gaza can only begin once the rubble has been removed," explains Guillaume Zerr, Handicap International’s Head of Mission in the Palestinian Territories. "This phase is very high risk, given the large amounts of unexploded ordnance in the rubble. The local population is highly exposed, as they often undertake the removal work themselves."
The United Nations Development Program is responsible for the rubble removal but cannot oversee the removal of all the debris. This represents a lucrative business opportunity as the materials recovered can be sold on for reconstruction purposes.
Handicap International’s report emphasizes the need to implement additional information campaigns to pass on key messages on what people should do if they find a suspicious object, specifically during this clean-up phase when lots of people are moving rubble. The recommendations made in the report include:
- prioritizing a risk education program that targets children
- reinforcing cooperation between risk education actors and coordinating messages and assessments
Handicap International is implementing a program to raise the awareness of explosive remnants of war among families and small businesses contracted to carry out rubble removal work.
A Handicap International team conducted the study from October 13 to 21, 2014, including a panel of 549 people who responded to a 22-question survey. The team formed four discussion groups. A series of interviews were also carried out with key actors such as the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross. This study cross references quantitative and qualitative data using the KAP (knowledge, attitudes, practices) method developed by the World Health Organization. The investigators used cluster and quota sampling to ensure the data collected was representative.
Handicap International in the Palestinian Territories
Handicap International has worked in the Palestinian territories since 1996, implementing rehabilitation, support for civil society, and local inclusive development projects. Handicap International has notably developed Disability and Vulnerability Focal Points to manage and inform people with specific needs. These activities are implemented with local partners in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.