Welcome to the United Nations

occupied Palestinian Territory

History of Work

Since 2009, UNMAS has been providing humanitarian mine action in the Gaza Strip to mitigate the threat of explosive ordnance to civilians' lives and enable the safe delivery of humanitarian activities. UNMAS provides explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) response at UN and humanitarian partner projects sites, delivers explosive ordnance risk education (EORE) to the civilian community including humanitarian workers, and co-coordinates the Mine Action Area of Responsibility (MA AoR) under the Protection Cluster. In the West Bank, UNMAS supported the establishment of the Palestine Mine Action Center (PMAC) in 2012. Since then, UNMAS has been providing capacity building and technical assistance to the PMAC towards meeting its obligations under the relevant international treaties. UNMAS provides training to the PMAC personnel in the delivery of EORE, information management (IM), coordination and reporting, gender responsive programming. UNMAS carries out capacity gap assessments to identify the changing needs and plan appropriate support. 

 

UNMAS Palestine continues to implement its work in alignment with the provisions of UN Security Council resolutions 2712 (2023) and 2728 (2024) and UN General Assembly resolutions A/RES/ES-10/21 (2023) and A/RES/ES-10/22 (2023) on the protection of civilians and humanitarian personnel, and the provision of humanitarian activities in the current conflict. It also aligns with the Humanitarian Response Plan for the Occupied Palestinian Territories (HRP oPt) 2023, the Flash Appeal for the Occupied Palestinian Territory 2023, the renewed Flash Appeal for April - December 2024 and the UNMAS Palestine Programme Strategy (PS). Once development efforts can re-start, this programme will again contribute to the achievement of SDG 16 ‘Peace Justice and Strong Institutions’, target ‘Significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere’, and play an essential function to enable other humanitarian actors to achieve other SDG goals, such as SDG 2 ‘Zero Hunger’, SDG 3 ‘Good Health and Well-being’, SDG 4 ‘Quality Education’, SDG 5 ‘Gender Equality’, SDG 6 ‘Clean Water and Sanitation’ and SDG 9 ‘Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure’ by minimizing the substantial explosive threats posed to the UN and humanitarian actors in Gaza.  

 

Lastly, and while the UNMAS Palestine Programme addresses the threat of explosive remnants of war (ERW), it is aligned with the Oslo Action Plan by the States Parties of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention in the sense that EORE and the collection of victim data are part of best practice and are as important in providing effective responses to the threat of ERW as they are to the threat of anti-personnel mines.  

 
Achievements (Oct 2023 - 15 Apr 2024)

  • 41,200 EORE materials distributed
  • 97 Interagency Missions Supported
  • 48 Explosive Hazard Assessments (EHA) conducted
  • 5 Training of Trainer EORE sessions provided
  • 3 Hazardous Environment Training sessions provided

 

UNMAS has long been supporting mine action activities in Palestine, both in Gaza and in the West Bank. However, since 7 October 2023, the UNMAS operations have considerably evolved to adapt to the emerging needs of local populations and humanitarian partners amidst the ongoing conflict. The war in Gaza has resulted in explosive ordnance contamination on a scale unprecedented for Gaza and poses immediate and long-term threats to civilians, hinders safe movement and the delivery of humanitarian activities. In the medium and longer term, and post ceasefire, all reconstruction efforts will require integration with mine action due to the suspected level of explosive contamination in the debris. Though Gaza is anticipated to require the largest amount of support, in the West Bank too, the use of explosive weapons has continued to increase and will also likely result in a significant problem of explosive ordnance littering populated areas. 

 

 

Activities

The UNMAS Palestine programme has reinforced its resources and repositioned itself to be responsive to the current context. In doing so, it is now working in Gaza through the below pillars and activities. In the West Bank, it continues to support EORE and capacity building of the PMAC. Humanitarian mine action in Gaza has already been uniquely integrated into the delivery of humanitarian activities, in recognition of the high levels of threats faced by the population and humanitarian actors. UNMAS work serves as an integral enabler of humanitarian activities and its centrality in any subsequent early recovery, efforts to rebuild and population return efforts following a ceasefire cannot be understated.

 

Gaza 

Pillar One: Support to Security of Humanitarian Actors  

Implementing humanitarian activities requires moving through the rubble, destroyed roads and areas, with ERW among them, and the risk is extremely high. Every humanitarian delivery is required to have support from UNMAS in order to ensure the safety of the humanitarian workers as well as the population. Therefore, UNMAS’ support for security and safety of civilians and of UN agencies and humanitarian partners is critical for the whole humanitarian effort in Gaza.  

 

In this regard, UNMAS provides escorts for the humanitarian convoys delivering critical humanitarian assistance such as water, food, medicine and fuel as well as assessments and other missions. For example, UNMAS supported the mission to evacuate the newborn babies from the Shifa hospital. 

 

Pillar Two: Explosive Ordnance Response  

UNMAS Palestine conducts EOD response at UN premises, including UN and humanitarian operations sites, as well as civilian locations. This includes explosive hazard assessments (EHA) for routes and locations used by the UN and humanitarian partners, assessment of the threat of ERW, marking of the area and recording of the confirmed and suspected contamination in the UNMAS Information Management System. 

 

When conditions have improved sufficiently, UNMAS plans to conduct rendering safe, clearance and disposal of ERW.  

 

UNMAS Palestine will coordinate with and be guided by the priorities of the cluster system, including the Protection Cluster, and the UN Country Team including UNRWA, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Office of Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). 

 

Pillar Three: Explosive Ordnance Risk Education  

Over 1.7 million people, or nearly 75 per cent of the population, are estimated to be internally displaced as of 12 April 2024. The displaced people in concentrated areas as well as the humanitarian workers who deliver assistance face heightened risks of ERW incidents. When a ceasefire is reached, the expected increase in movements of people who return home, try to rebuild their lives, try to access agriculture, livelihood and other resources as well as basic social services will expose vulnerable populations even more to areas that are potentially heavily contaminated. Additionally, the increase of humanitarian response activities for emergency, recovery and development support, will also expose the UN and humanitarian partners to the life-threatening risks of ERW. It is of utmost importance that civilians and humanitarian personnel are equipped with the knowledge of safe behaviour when faced with suspected ERW, to mitigate the risk of death and injury.  

 

In this regard, UNMAS Palestine will deliver EORE for the population and the UN and humanitarian partners. It has developed three modules to accommodate the needs under the current situation. 

 

  1. EORE for the population: UNMAS Palestine will deliver lifesaving EORE messages for the population across the Gaza Strip, which is at heightened risk of encountering and being injured by ERW. The EORE sessions will be delivered to civilians via two modalities: 1) ‘community sessions’ in community-based centres across Gaza; 2) ‘street visits’ to populations that are especially at risk, such as returning internally displaced persons (IDPs), scrap metal collectors and rubble removal workers. EORE messages will be delivered to civilians primarily through distribution of posters, leaflets and stickers.  

  2. Explosive Ordnance Awareness (EOA) and EORE Training of Trainers (ToT) for UN and humanitarian partners: UNMAS also conducts short awareness raising sessions for the non-security staff of UN and humanitarian partners to ensure safe delivery of humanitarian responses. In addition, UNMAS Palestine conducts Training of Trainers (ToT) sessions on EORE for UN and humanitarian partners delivering emergency humanitarian assistance in Gaza, who will disseminate safety messages in the shelters and distribution points.  

  3. Hazardous Environment Training (HET): UNMAS conducts Hazardous Environment Training (HET) for UN Security Officers and humanitarian workers who will travel on convoys to deliver humanitarian activities across the Gaza Strip. Given the current context in Gaza, the training focuses on ensuring the security of humanitarian convoys in lower-risk areas that have previously been assessed by the UNMAS EOD team, during and after the ongoing conflict. Participants will identify potential risks when traveling and apply safety precautions if ERW is encountered on a route. Through the trained personnel, information on potential ERW contamination is shared with UNMAS to contribute to the mapping of the overall contamination and inform the planning for future convoys. The training includes an individual first aid kit (IFAK) component to enable participants to manage convoy-related injuries until evacuation to the nearest safe medical facility is possible.  

 

Pillar Four: Coordination  

UNMAS has worked with Humanity & Inclusion to reactivate the Mine Action Area of Responsibility (MA AoR, under the Protection Cluster) to coordinate humanitarian actors in the sector as of December 2023. The MA AoR meets bi-weekly and has Technical Working Groups which actively support specialized projects in the sector to enhance collaboration and effective implementation.

 

Already, immense resources have been put into establishing appropriate information management systems to support coordination efforts of the UNMAS Palestine programme. Online tools such as maps layered with data from OCHA, UNOSAT, ACLED and UNMAS data as well as openly accessible online request forms for EORE and EHA have been created to enhance outreach by UNMAS and cross-sector collaboration.

 

West Bank  

Pillar One: Capacity building  

UNMAS provides support to enhance the capacity of the PMAC of the Palestinian Authority (PA) to enhance national ownership and sustainability of humanitarian mine action. This includes delivery of EORE, development of a Victim Assistance (VA) strategy, data management, reporting, and coordination. 

 

UNMAS will also assess the technical capacity of the EOD Police of the PA to identify the support needed to bolster their ability to assume their mine action responsibilities, and provide advice and support for strategies and workplans. 

 

Pillar Two: Explosive Ordnance Risk Education  

In the West Bank, UNMAS focuses on the Bedouin Community with face-to-face EORE. UNMAS partners with a Bedouin NGO to reach this highly- secluded community which lives in close proximity to the firing ranges of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) which expose them to heightened risks of ERW.  UNMAS also conducts EORE mass media campaigns through SMS and radio, as well as through billboards, posters and leaflets, which is an efficient and effective method as many areas of the West Bank are hard to reach due to the security situation and moving restrictions.  Furthermore, UNMAS plans to engage the youth from village councils to form a youth group to deliver EORE safety messages in their localities. 

 

Continuing Challenges  

Right now, all humanitarian organizations are operating in a very challenging context. As conflict is ongoing, the kinetic environment continues to be extremely dangerous for humanitarian actors who serve the population in need. UNMAS serves as a key risk mitigation actor within this environment, directly supporting humanitarian actors to assess explosive hazard threats in areas where they operate.  

 

With Gaza being 87% urbanized and experiencing immense levels of debris and rubble accumulation (37 million tons estimated as of 15 April 2024), access to those in need is an enormous challenge. Vehicles are in constant need of repair on the rough roads, communications networks are often not functioning and necessary approvals to bring critical new equipment into Gaza have proven challenging.  

 

The Mine Action sector faces tough challenges for importation of its specialized equipment, because of the logistical and operational constraints. Without concerted advocacy to bring in appropriate materials, the sector is hampered in its ability to render areas safe for return. As entry points via Israeli borders are not regularly opened, there is further strain on the humanitarian community with the added layer to its deployment and logistics arrangements going through Egypt to enter via Rafah. Because of the logistical and operational challenges, before operations can commence, a sizable pre-positioning phase to bring in required items will need to be planned into any operational activities and financial support for this pre-planning work is needed now.  

 

Funding

While there remains uncertainty in the outcome of the conflict, the UN system - UNMAS included - is using scenario planning assumptions to prepare its ongoing and upcoming responses. In any situation, the need to support Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank will be immense and it is clear that mine action will play a key enabling role.  

 

UNMAS has secured $5 million to support its ongoing work, which includes limited EOD response (without clearance efforts), EORE and coordination needs in this emergency phase. This covers a limited team engagement until 30 November 2024. To respond adequately to the immense coordination and eventual clearance needs in Gaza, UNMAS seeks an additional  $40 million for the coming 12 months.  

 

An OCHA Flash Appeal was published on 17 April-outlining the estimated resource requirements to reduce human suffering and prevent further loss of life in Gaza and the West Bank, based on the best available information at this time. The $2.822 billion requested represents only part of the $4.089 billion that the UN and partners estimate is required to meet the needs of the 3.3 million people in need. Following a ceasefire and entering early recovery and efforts to rebuild, UNMAS hopes that donors will provide dedicated support for humanitarian mine action and clearance in a likely heavily contaminated environment. It also recommends that funding for reconstruction is approached in a one-envelope fashion with humanitarian mine action integrated into any debris management projects; UNMAS collaborates with UNDP, UNEP, UNESCO and other rubble removal actors in Gaza for this work. 

 

 

 

Data: April 2024