Since last November, Humanity & Inclusion’s mine action team has cleared more than 30,000 square meters of land—the equivalent of four football fields—in northern Chad. The team has identified and destroyed 114 landmines and other explosive remnants of war.
"We’re clearing land to promote development in northern Chad,” said Benjamin Westercamp, HI's head of mission in Chad. “Many areas are still contaminated by weapons left over from the conflict with Libya in the 1980s. This prevents the use of roads and the implementation of development projects. Our clearance work will help the region emerge from isolation.”
The objective is to release 1.5 million sq. meters of land—the equivalent of more than 200 football fields—that are contaminated by mines and explosive remnants of war, a legacy of successive conflicts since the 1970s.
To help protect civilians, Humanity & Inclusive is educating local people about the risks posed unexploded ordnance around their communities. So far, they have reached 450 people.
In Faya-Largeau, Chad, Humanity & Inclusion has begun testing drones to detect landmines and build a detailed picture of what’s on the ground—a revolution in mine clearance. HI Project Manager Xavier Depreytere explains more.
“Our first tests took place in January in the desert south of Faya, an area heavily contaminated by explosives leftover from the conflict with Libya in the 1980s. The drones can scan areas in record time: 750 acres in two hours, which represents a huge time-saving for mine detection teams.
Equipped with a camera, the drone gives a detailed picture of what’s on the ground, along with a set of data such as GPS coordinates. During the initial tests, the drone took a photo of the terrain every two meters. When assembled, the photos provide a highly detailed map.
What is the optimal height for a drone? What type of drones should we use? What data is most useful to mine clearance experts? These are the sorts of questions we are asking in order to make the best use of this technology.”
International Meeting of Mine Action Experts
From February 5 to 7, mine clearance experts gathered in Geneva, Switzerland, for the annual mine action meeting organized by the United Nations. HI attended to discuss innovative new mine clearance methods and to draw attention to the organization’s current testing program.
A key topic was also weapons clearance methods for improvised explosive devices (IEDs)—a major challenge in modern demining.
More images from our demining work in Chad:
Our drone operator prepares to send the drone over the desert landscape to see what's ahead
Anti-tank mines found by the team
Explosive devices buried in a hole before HI's demining team produced a controlled explosion
A controlled explosion of the weapons the team found
Download the report:
This brochure gives an overview of HI's history which is closely intertwined with the fight against armed violence, including the use of anti-personnel landmines, cluster munitions, and other explosive remnants of war. It provides an outline of our unique expertise in demining and land clearance, risk education, and victim assistance.Sign up
This baseline assessment was undertaken by Handicap International in October 2014 in all five governorates of Gaza. The focus of the survey was to collect baseline data related to the knowledge, attitudes, and practices regarding Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) contamination in communities impacted by the recent conflict.
The survey consisted of two parts: quantitative data collection comprising 459 individual questionnaires and qualitative data collection of 4 focus groups. The questionnaire targeted men, women, and children over 10 years old, while the focus groups targeted adults with disabilities, children, and adolescents. Quotas based on the age and gender in the five governorates sought to represent a proportionate cross-section of the population in impacted communities.
The survey showed that 45% of the overall population surveyed had received Risk Education (RE) messages in the past, with a lesser proportion of respondents in the governorates of North Gaza and Middle Area. The most common means of receiving the RE messages were through a school teacher, television, leaflets, radio, NGO worker, and posters.
Despite high levels of education in the population surveyed, significant gaps remain in knowledge of ERW. When asked which groups in these communities need more RE, the common response was young boys and girls. Regarding attitudes, most respondents are worried about ERW contamination and believe ERW should be reported to authorities. Overall, about half of respondents had seen ERW during or after the recent conflict. Gender was a key factor in this; males were much more likely to have reported seeing ERW than females. Of those that had seen ERW, 5% of respondents admitted to tampering with the ERW. Although 70% of the population were able to give the correct answer about how to report ERW (by dialing 100), only 29% of those that had seen ERW had actually reported it. Of those who had entered an area suspected to have ERW (28%), the most common reasons mentioned for doing so were curiosity, returning to collect items from a home that was damaged, farming, and visiting friends and family.
This baseline assessment shows the continued prevalence of high-risk attitudes and practices in Gaza, demonstrating a need for additional campaigns that deliver safety messages to the entire population. This report also highlights issues that could be improved and makes the following recommendations:
- Ensure that resources are allocated to make RE a priority for children
- Designate the entire front line of rubble removal and reconstruction as a target for RE and other support
- Prioritize RE to high-risk governorates
- Increase cooperation among RERE actors and standardize RE messages, monitoring, and evaluation
- Develop more inclusive Information Education and Communication (IEC) materials and RE activities
- Integrate RE across humanitarian and development interventions (with a focus on protection and health sectors)
- Ensure continued support is provided to clearance and victim assistance efforts
TO READ THE FULL REPORT, DOWNLOAD IT HERE:
Bombs under the rubble — Study of awareness of explosive remnants of war among the populations of Gaza (2015)Sign up
According to the NGO PAX, investments in cluster munitions have fallen from $31 billion to $9 billion in the past three years, reflective of a huge drop in support for the use of these internationally banned weapons.
Cluster munitions are bombs that opens mid-air to release hundreds of tiny bomblets that spread out over a wide area. Up to 40% fail to detonate on impact, and, much like landmines, cluster bombs remain “live” for decades. More than 90% of people killed by cluster munitions are non-combatants. However, several countries, including the U.S., continue to stock these indiscriminate weapons, and have yet to join the lifesaving treaty that bans them, the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
The dramatic 350% drop in production of cluster munitions is largely due to the fact that U.S. manufactures, Textron and Orbital ATK, have decided not to produce them anymore. However, seven companies continue to produce cluster munitions. The PAX report named 88 financial institutions that continue to invest in these cluster-munition manufacturers.
"Governments are increasingly aware that the use of cluster munitions is unacceptable," says Anne Héry, Director of Advocacy at HI. “120 countries have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions, but only 11 of them have made it clear to financial institutions that supporting investments in cluster munitions is illegal. More needs to be done. We must work to reduce the sources of funding for these weapons in order to eradicate them."
According to the Cluster Munition Monitor 2018, published in August, cluster munitions were used in Syria and Yemen in 2017. In total, the Monitor recorded 289 new cluster munition casualties in 2017, including Syria and Yemen, and eight other countries where cluster munitions dropped during past conflicts have exploded.
Two decades ago, the adoption of the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty marked an unprecedented diplomatic victory against these cowardly weapons. The treaty led to a fall in casualty numbers, the destruction of millions of mines, and a virtual end to their use. Since 2014, however, the use of mines has increased in many current conflicts, with a resulting rise in casualty numbers.Read more
In launching mine clearance operations earlier this year in Colombia, Handicap International teams conducted initial surveys to pinpoint hazardous areas throughout the country. Following the results, HI deployed a team of ten deminers to Venta, which is in the Cauca department, for a 45-day operation.Read more
“I was on the bus on my way home from school,” José explains. “I felt a sharp pain in my leg and wanted to get up to run away, but couldn’t.” In 2000, then 18-year-old José lost his right leg in a mine accident in Colombia.
During that time, he lived with his mother on a farm in the Cauca region. “We had a small pig farm and grew coriander which provided enough for us to live on,” José continues. “During the week, I went to school and in the evenings and weekends, I worked.
“The Cauca region was very severely affected by the conflict that ripped Colombia apart for almost fifty years. After the fighting, explosive remnants of war were often left strewn along the roadside, clearly visible and likely to be triggered at any moment. I’ve wondered, how many times did we disturb mines in the river with our feet? I have terrible memories of this period: the image of children enrolled in the armed groups, parading with their rifles. Horrible.
José explains that having his leg amputated was the beginning of a very painful period. "I lost everything. My leg. My job. My future career. I had to give up on my hopes. Everything was ruined.
“Then I met Handicap International.” After receiving a new artificial leg, Handicap International and partner organization, Teirra de Paz gave hope back to José. “They made it possible for me to receive rehabilitation care to learn how to use my prosthesis, and gave me psychological support.
“They also provided me with legal assistance which allowed me to obtain a small pension. The financial support I received allowed me to take up my studies again, and find a new job, a leader in the Cauca Mine Victims Foundation.
“The assistance Handicap International gave me was vital for me and my future. Today, I am walking again. I have an income, I know my rights, and I want to encourage my son to move forward with his life.
"Thanks to Handicap International's mine clearance work we will be able to move around freely again. Colombia is a large, mountainous country that has been devastated by the war. It will take a long time to free the country of mines. But we will get there, eventually."
COLOMBIA: ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST DENSELY MINED COUNTRIES
As part of the new peace agreements between the government and Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC), the Colombian government granted Handicap International full authorization in May 2016 to conduct mine clearance operations in three of the country’s regions. Handicap International has since launched a five-year mine clearance operation, with a specific focus on indigenous land, in the regions of Cauca, Meta, and Caquetá. Learn more about our work in Colombia.
"One day, when I was 24 years old, I was with my uncle and we found a long tube,” Freddy explains. “I tapped it with a hammer and it exploded, seriously injuring my hand.” Freddy, along with his wife and daughter lived in the countryside, in the Vereda La Primavera region of Colombia. Members of the Nasa indigenous community, Freddy and his wife cooked on open fires and used water from the river.
Freddy worked on the coffee, yucca, and corn plantations, alongside other members of his community. And although the country’s 50 years of armed conflict recently came to an end, that doesn’t keep people from living in fear. “We’re constantly looking over our shoulders. In the wake of the conflict that ripped our country apart for years, the ground is littered with explosive remnants of war. We didn’t know what they were.”
Mines and explosive remnants of war contaminate 31 of Colombia's 32 regions. Since 1990, the use of improvised explosive devices has become systematic, generating more than 11,100 casualties, among the injured: Freddy.
On that dark day, Freddy had two of his fingers amputated. “The accident destroyed me,” he says. “I suffered a series of disasters. I started drinking, my wife left me, and I lost my father. I was no longer able to work the land. It was a very dark time.”
Freddy says he restored hope when he met Handicap International: "I have the courage to carry on. I received help with my health issues as well as psychological support. The organization helped me get involved with defending the rights of the indigenous communities, which are victims of the conflict.
“First, I became an accountant, then, an advisor for the organization. I also received financial support that allowed me to start up a small chicken breeding business. I have other plans, including recording a second album of music.
“Without the support of Handicap International, I would never have had the courage to carry on with life, never mind developing my projects. Our rights have been trampled, but we are survivors. There is a brighter future ahead."
COLOMBIA: ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST DENSELY MINED COUNTRIES
As part of the new peace agreements between the government and Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC), the Colombian government granted Handicap International full authorization in 2016 to conduct mine clearance operations in three of the country’s regions. Handicap International has since launched a five-year mine clearance operation, with a specific focus on indigenous land, in the regions of Cauca, Meta, and Caquetá. Learn more about our work in Colombia.