Rubble from a destroyed building

Explosive contamination poses additional risk for earthquake survivors

After 12 years of conflict, Syria is heavily contaminated with landmines, bomb remnants, and improvised explosives that litter every part of the country, particularly the northwest. Musab, a risk education specialist for Humanity & Inclusion explains the effect this contamination could have on survivors of the Feb. 6 earthquake.

The contamination poses an additional risk for families affected by the earthquake on February 6, as well as for rescuers. The North West region of the country has been contaminated by the extensive use of explosive devices for the past 12 years, and combat and bombing have continued in the area in recent weeks. In Idlib, people are facing the danger of contamination on a daily basis.

We have a team of more than 30 risk education specialists who are ready to be deployed.

Initially, we will launch an awareness campaign for rescue teams who work in the rubble and may come across suspicious objects. They need to adopt the right behaviors to protect themselves as they are currently the most exposed.

We aim to implement simple and practical risk awareness messages that inform people about what to do and the appropriate attitudes to adopt. Our campaign will target families in general, as we have done before the earthquake. The region has been severely impacted by an economic crisis, and many people have been pushed into poverty. Collecting scrap metal has become a common practice to earn money and feed their families. People who engage in this practice may inadvertently come across an explosive device.

We will implement this awareness campaign by visiting the worst-affected neighborhoods. We will go door-to-door, hand out leaflets, and pass on messages. It is essential to speak to people in the area where the work is taking place.

We will also visit collective shelters as displaced people are at higher risk of exposure to explosive danger due to the current chaos, and the fact that many people are living on the streets with no place to go, where explosive devices may be present.

Our recommendation for anyone who thinks they have found an explosive device is to inform our team immediately. A specialist will then arrive to identify the object. If it is an unexploded remnant, HI’s team will mark the area and contact the authorities for clearance.

Our main priority is to minimize the number of accidents by reinforcing the message: whenever you come across a suspicious object, call an expert!

According to the most recent Landmine Monitor, Syria recorded more than 11,000 casualties between 2011 and 2021. It is estimated that as many as 300,000 explosive remnants of war have failed to detonate in Syria, posing an active threat to the population in contaminated areas.

Read the latest updates