Weapons and mine dangers persist

Bruno Vandemeulebroecke is the Logistics Coordinator in Libya, where he trains members of the Handicap International team in organizing missions.

He has also witnessed first-hand the damage that landmines and other types of unexploded ordnance have done to the country. The association is working to increase the population's awareness of the risks these weapons, in addition to small arms and light weapons, pose. Here is his recent update on the work being accomplished in Libya:

“We are constantly reminded of the population's lack of awareness regarding the threat posed by landmines and other remnants of war," he says. "Just a few weeks ago, some children were playing with a bomb which exploded. The kids like to act tough and mess about with the explosives, but the consequences are absolutely tragic... so we teach the children about the dangers of this type of play. In this, our collaboration with the Libyan scout movement is vital. They have made around 100 volunteers available to us, who have worked with the children using a traditional game they all know, adapted in order to pass on our message.” 

Handicap International is also working on the dangers of small arms and light weapons. "The Libyan population has large numbers of weapons in their homes that they have taken from the arsenals held by the previous regime," Bruno explains. "People injure themselves when cleaning their weapons, children cause accidents when playing with them... and then there are the victims of celebratory gunfire, sometimes people who are hundreds of meters away from where the shooting is taking place. Not so long ago, I heard some of this celebratory shooting which went on all night. The next day I found a large handful of bullets on the roof of our office...

"Our efforts are, however, bearing fruit. The number of firearm injuries has decreased, the mosques and radio stations are working with us to pass on our message, and people are more attentive to mine risks. But these individual successes do not mean the battle is over. Libya will have to live with landmines and other unexploded ordnance for a long time. There are many years' work ahead of us," he stresses.    

"I am responsible for training our Libyan colleagues. Previously, there were very few NGOs in the country, so they don't have any experience of funding body procedures. In order to extend the activities in place, we have to obtain funding from these bodies, which means we must follow very strict and transparent purchasing procedures. My job is to teach our local colleagues how to proceed." 

"I also do a lot of research and planning work," Bruno adds. "Libya is a developed country, but the recent conflict is still very present... there are often petrol shortages or people have to queue for hours in the hope of getting hold of a gas canister for the oven. I have to take this into account when preparing the vehicle schedules, and ordering supplies of printed documents and the other materials required for the program. It is important that these supplies are delivered as rapidly as possible. The less time and resources we waste, the more quickly we can implement our projects and stop more people from getting injured."

Bruno is originally from Bellegem, Belgium. He studied political science at Louvain and worked for several years in the private sector.