Mine Risk Education West of Juba
[Juba, Southern Sudan 34ºC] It’s my first day in Juba (Feb 26) and I start working right away. From Juba, I have a “story from the field” to write about Mine Risk Education (MRE). I’m picked up for a briefing meeting at the UNICEF offices. You can’t get in without a badge or an escort and the metal detector offers the only gateway to the inner compound.
We are seven around the table. I’m surrounded by Child Protection Specialists, Mine Risk Educators, Child Protection Officers and Mine Victim Assistant Officers. They all work either for UNICEF or United Nations Mine Action Office (UNMAO). Other organizations collaborate with the
I learn that the reported number of landmine and explosive remnants of war (ERW) casualties in Southern Sudan is more than 2,642. In the past 3 1/2 years, 3,050 dangerous areas have been identified through a Landmine Impact Survey but only 1,894 of them have so far been cleared. Each year, the Mine Risk Education Program hopes to reach around 250,000 children with 26 groups of local educators in the field. So far a total of 758,365 Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and refugees have received Mine Risk Education.
After the briefing, a group of us climb into an UNMAO vehicle and drive to a roundabout near the construction site of the Dr. John Garang monument and museum. The War Child vehicle is waiting for us at the rendez-vous point, so we continue behind their lead. We drive 12 kilometres along a bumpy dirt road toward the village of Kabo.
On the way, we notice heavy plumes of black smoke rising from the horizon. We drive closer and can see the flames in the distance.
We continue onward to where the Kajo Kaji Youth Organization Family Association will provide a mine risk education presentation to the youth of the village. I’m going to observe. On the way, we pass a bush fire that rages across the landscape.
During the civil war the site of Kabo was a former military base. After the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005 between the Government of Sudan in Khartoum and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M), the military camp was abandoned. Refugees and other displaced people from within Sudan return to their southern homeland. Some choose to settle in this village. Many families inhabit the former base area. They build houses, open shops, and settle in to their new lives.
Unfortunately, there are lingering landmines, planted to protect the former base during the civil war. An invisible fence that maims and kills long after the soldiers have left. Throughout Southern Sudan, the scenario repeats itself: families return to resettle an area and landmines litter the arable land where they plan to cultivate.
The kids are taught how to recognize the markers that identify mine areas, what to do if a suspected landmine is found, and who to tell in the communities to get the site added to the Survey.