Syria | Earthquakes may have moved explosive weapons contamination
Hundreds of thousands of explosive ordnances contaminate many parts of Syria, particularly the northwest of the country where conflict continues. Gary Toombs, Humanity & Inclusion’s global land release technical operations manager, explains how the February earthquakes “significantly aggravated an already desperate situation.”Read more
Syria | 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.Read more
Ukraine | Q&A: Explosive ordnance contamination after one year of conflict
Mykola Havrylets is Humanity & Inclusion's Explosive Ordnance Risk Education Supervisor. In this Q&A, he explains the types of explosive contamination teams are seeing after one year of war in Ukraine and what HI's teams are doing to protect communities.Read more
Ukraine | Correcting misconceptions through explosive ordnance risk education
Mykhailo Tsarik is an Explosive Ordnance Risk Education Agent working for Humanity & Inclusion in Ukraine. He explains the importance of his work to help people spot, avoid and report dangerous weapons.Read more
Ukraine | Returning civilians threatened by explosive ordnance
Some people displaced by the war in Ukraine are beginning to return home to cities contaminated by explosive ordnance. Humanity & Inclusion will prepare communities to identify hazards and adopt safe behaviors.Read more
Ukraine | Preparing civilians for active conflict
Humanity & Inclusion is working with communities in Ukraine to help them adopt conflict preparedness behaviors before, during and after armed attacks.Read more
Cambodia | New U.S.-funded project will clear mines from contaminated land
Three decades after the end of conflict, landmines and other explosive weapons continue to contaminate parts of Cambodia–making it unsafe for people to live and farm and limiting access to resources in some regions. These weapons remain an obstacle in more than 6,400 of Cambodia’s 14,300 villages.
To protect civilians, Humanity & Inclusion has teamed up with the local organization Cambodia Self-Help Demining (CSHD) to launch a new project to remove explosive weapons, teach locals how to stay safe and avoid explosive remnants of war, and create long-term mine action plans in Cambodia’s Siem Reap and Kampong Thom provinces.
The 12-month, $500,000 project is funded by the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.
Humanity & Inclusion’s team will support CSHD in surveying land, removing landmines and explosive ordnance, and raising awareness among residents. The ultimate goal is to see CSHD build its own capacity to manage an autonomous mine clearance operation in Cambodia by 2025.
“We are excited to take on such an important project working alongside local villages to ensure people can live and work safely, without fear of losing their lives or limbs to explosive weapons,” says Emmanuel Sauvage, director of the Armed Violence Reduction unit at Humanity & Inclusion. “We are grateful to the U.S. government for recognizing the danger these leftover weapons pose for civilians in their everyday lives and for the support to develop sustainable local mine action capacities.”
In recent decades, organizations like Humanity & Inclusion have assisted the Cambodian government in its efforts to become mine free. With support from the U.S. government and other donors, organizations have removed more than 1 million landmines and 3 million other explosive remnants of war from approximately 700 square miles of land. But civilians are still in danger in another 772 square miles of land that is contaminated by such weapons.
Humanity & Inclusion counts more than 25 years of experience in mine action and first started clearing weapons in Cambodia in 1994. CSHD is a local organization that works to remove weapons in rural villages. The organization was founded in 2007, by a former Khmer child soldier.
This new project will support at least 35 staff in mine action activities, directly benefitting at least 500 people and indirectly helping more than 12,000 people across the two provinces have safer access to their land and resources.
Image: A man wearing protective gear kneels on the ground in a Cambodian village in 2012. He's placing a sign that warns of explosive remnants of war. Copyright: Eric Martin/Figaro Magazine/HI
Chad field update | Protecting locals from explosive weapons
After decades of armed conflict, the Lake Chad region remains littered with explosive remnants of war. Humanity & Inclusion (which operates under the name of Handicap International) puts up warning signs around hazardous areas and runs risk education sessions to help protect locals from the dangers of explosive remnants.
A two-person risk education team from HI is teaching people living in Baga Sola and Liwa, in Chad’s Lake region, how to spot, avoid, and report any weapons they may find in their communities. These sessions are held outside in the shade, in front of a mosque, or in school playground where HI staff use cartoon strips to teach small groups of 25 people about explosive remnants of war, the harm they can do, and how to prevent it. Since January 2018, six thousand individuals, of which the majority are displaced after fleeing the violence of Boko Haram, have taken part in these risk educations sessions.
When an explosive remnant is found, a sign is put up as a warning to local people. MAG, a partner organization, then removes and destroys the explosive remnants.
HI’s team regularly returns to sites where explosive remnants have been identified in order to check several things: Is the explosive remnant still visible? Has it been covered by sand? Are necessary warning signs still there and visible?
Warning signs often disappear. Sometimes they are buried in the sand or taken and used by local people for firewood. That’s why, our team regularly returns to sites to make sure the signs are still there and visible. Some explosive remnants are recovered by Boko Haram for use as improvised explosive devices.
Once individuals been informed of the risks, they are more alert and are better equipped to stay safe from explosive remnants identified by HI. This reduces the number of accidents before the area can be cleared of explosive weapons.
By the end of this year, HI and its partner organizations will begin clearing explosives in North Chad. Learn more about the work we’re doing in Chad.
 Mines Advisory Group
Mosul: "deciding to go home... despite the risks"
As the Iraqi authorities announced the end of the battle in Mosul on Sunday, July 9, Handicap International is worried about the aftermath and the immense trauma that the civilian populations experienced during nine months of intense battle. Since the beginning of the offensive, in October 2016, more than one million people have been displaced. Two weeks ago, forces launched the final assault on the old city, where hundreds of thousands of civilians were still trapped.
"The fighting has been very intense and civilians have faced an extremely risky situation," says Elisa Fourt, Project Manager for Handicap International in Iraq. "There are several reports of thousands of people who have been used as human shields. Hundreds more were shot when they tried to flee the conflict. In cooperation with other humanitarian actors, we try every day to help the wounded who are still arriving in hospitals. And we also intervene with the displaced population in the camps, among whom are a large number of people in need of rehabilitation care. More than 15,000 civilians have been wounded since the start of the offensive (people referred to the hospital) and thousands more were killed in the fighting.”
Malnutrition and trauma
"A number of civilians who have managed to escape the city also suffer from malnutrition and are in a state of extreme fatigue,” Fourt adds. “Our teams work with many people who are in a state of psychosocial distress in the face of what they have experienced in recent months. Some witnessed scenes of torture, crimes and survived in extremely difficult conditions."
Handicap International has deployed field psychologists for the most severe cases of trauma. Of the 800,000 internally displaced Iraqis who remain in the camps, many civilians have lost their homes and are so traumatized that they are not considering returning at this stage.
Increase in returns
In addition to assisting the displaced, the association also intervenes to help civilians who have already made the decision to resettle in Mosul. Since the start of the offensive, more than 200,000 civilians have already returned to their neighborhoods. This trend is likely to increase in the coming weeks come.
"More and more people are deciding to go home,” Fourt notes. “Living conditions in the camps are particularly difficult: it is very hot, there is still no electricity, so there are many displaced people who choose to return, despite the risks. Explosive remnants of war still very present throughout the city. We are raising awareness of the dangers of explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices, so that they can identify and protect themselves when they’re back in Mosul and surrounding areas."
Handicap International and the Iraqi crisis
More than 200,000 people have benefited from Handicap International’s actions since the launch of its emergency operations in Iraq in 2014. The organization’s actions are regularly reviewed and adjusted to ensure they take into account a highly volatile situation across the whole of Iraqi territory. Handicap International currently organizes population protection activities, raises awareness of the risk from mines and conventional and unconventional weapons, conducts non-technical surveys and clears hazardous areas, provides physical and functional rehabilitation, psychosocial and psychological support, supports health centers, organizes training and advocacy and provides technical support to partners to enhance the inclusion of vulnerable people (people with disabilities, casualties, older people, and others) within their services.