Since the start of the conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) that erupted on 15 April 2023, the widespread use of conventional weapons including field artillery, mortars, air-dropped weapons and anti-aircraft guns has left plenty of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Khartoum and other urban areas such as El Obeid in North Kordofan, El Fasher in North Darfur, El Geneina in West Darfur, and Nyala in South Darfur.
The extreme violence caused displacement of 2.5 million people within and outside Sudan. Of particular concern, the residents of Khartoum have not received Explosive Ordnance Risk Education (EORE) in the past unlike communities in other regions of the Sudan, which have faced armed conflicts and where the Mine Action Area of Responsibility had previously invested in risk education. Assessing the Explosive Ordnance contamination of the ongoing conflict, providing emergency EORE to people at risk, including the humanitarian and UN community, and deploying Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and survey teams for clearing contaminated urban areas for the protection of civilians and enabling humanitarian interventions, will be key priorities in 2024.
In response to the current crisis, UNMAS has:
Broadcasted EORE messages on social media, and plans are underway to broadcast via television and radio;
Produced EORE materials in hard copy for immediate distribution;
Delivered explosive ordnance safety briefing to various UN agencies, NGOs and civil society organizations (CSO), raising awareness among their personnel on how to stay safe and avoid the risks posed by explosive remnants of war (ERW).
UNMAS plans to:
Assess the explosive ordnance contamination of the ongoing conflict and provide emergency risk education to people at risk including the aid community in areas affected by the conflict.
Set up a hotline to receive reports of explosive ordnance items and accidents as well as develop and maintain a database, including maps, with reported information to be shared among the humanitarian community and used when planning aid operations.
Pending security, deploy explosive ordnance disposal and survey teams for clearing high priority contaminated areas for the protection of civilians and enabling humanitarian interventions.
Coordinate the mine action response in Sudan, in coordination with the NMAC, as well with the Protection Cluster for the implementation of mine action activities.
Since 2002, Sudan’s mine action community has made great strides towards achieving a mine free Sudan while addressing the impact of mines and UXOs.
As of June 2023, UNMAS has contributed to the following results:
5,071 hazardous areas have been identified out of which 4,676 hazardous areas have been cleared, leaving 395 to be cleared. The cleared hazardous areas amount to 138.09 km2, which have been returned to local communities for productive use.
38,529 km of roads have been verified or cleared, opening humanitarian corridors, enabling safe movement of people, and allowing the flow of supply channels.
Through clearance activities, 10,400 anti-personnel mines, 3,376 anti-tank mines, and 174,613 UXO have been found and destroyed.
Over 5 million people received EORE via various forms, including interpersonal sessions, school lessons, public events, and radio programs. They gain essential knowledge on how to protect themselves, their families, and their communities by learning safe behavior around the risk of explosive ordnance.
Among 2,612 casualties (639 killed, 1,973 injured) of explosive ordnance, 1,280 survivors have received assistance in the forms of rehabilitation, prosthetic devices, psychosocial support, and/or economic and social integration.
UNMAS has supported the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) since January 2021, providing mine action services as part of the mission’s mandate. Established in June 2020, UNITAMS aims to support Sudan’s democratic transition and comprehensive peace process, and UNMAS is responsible for the mine action activities stipulated in the strategic objective (iii) Assist peacebuilding, civilian protection and rule of law, in particular in Darfur and the Two Areas.
In addition, UNMAS in Sudan supports the National Mine Action Center (NMAC) in building institutional capacity to meet Sudan’s obligation under Article 5 of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (‘Ottawa Treaty’), to make its territory mine-free by April 2027, and to provide humanitarian mine action. UNMAS in Sudan mobilises funds and manages land release (survey and clearance), explosive ordnance risk education (EORE) and victim assistance (VA) activities in coordination with NMAC and ensures mine action activities are coordinated to support humanitarian, development and peacebuilding needs. UNMAS also provides technical advice and training for NMAC and national mine action NGOs.
UNMAS first engaged in Sudan in 2002. It handed over its lead role to NMAC in 2013. In 2015, the UNMAS Programme was re-established at the invitation of the Government of Sudan with an advisory and support role. With the operational closure of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) in 2020, UNMAS took over responsibility for the ERW response in Darfur from the Ordnance Disposal Office (ODO) of UNAMID.
UNMAS supports UNITAMS’s mandate to assist peacebuilding and civilian protection through land release operations and the Government of Sudan in its efforts to achieve Ottawa Treaty compliance and dispose of other explosive hazards. In order to promote the safe and dignified return of the displaced people and to provide secure access to the humanitarian community for the delivery of life-saving aid, UNMAS collaborates with NMAC to release land through survey and clearing operations in local communities. As of 31 March 2023, 138.09 km2 (80.2%) out of the recorded 172 km2 of contaminated land has been released.
Explosive Ordnance Risk Education and Victim Assistance
Explosive accidents often happen due to a lack of knowledge of the safe handling of found explosive devices. UNMAS provides explosive ordnance (EO) risk education to populations living with the threat of explosive ordnance and to humanitarian workers. UNMAS also supports victims of EO and other persons with disabilities through data collection, advocacy, and provision of support. As of 31 March 2023, 2,612 (151 girls, 665 boys, 133 women, 1,162 men, and 501 unspecified) mine/ERW victims were registered in the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA). The actual number of victims, however, is likely to be much higher due to underreporting.
UNMAS Sudan strengthens the national capacity of mine action interventions by providing technical advice and training to NMAC and national NGOs on operations, leadership, quality assurance, and project management. The Government of Sudan ratified the Ottawa Treaty on 13 October 2003 and became a State Party in April 2004. Sudan met its obligation under Article 4 of the treaty in March 2008 by completing the destruction of all its stockpiles of anti-personnel mines. The deadline for the country to complete its Article 5 obligation of removing all anti-personnel mines from its territory is April 2027.
An additional USD 6.5 million is required to fund community liaison, technical assessments, clearance, EORE, and victim assistance in Sudan in addition to the USD 10 million originally requested in the Humanitarian Response Plan, bringing the revised total to 16.5 million USD; however, to meet the mine action needs in Sudan and to respond to current crisis, UNMAS estimates 50 million USD is required over the next five years.
UNMAS thanks the following donors for their generous support through the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund (VTF) for assisting Mine Action in Sudan during the year 2023: The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs/Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA), Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS), and the Government of Japan. UNMAS also thanks the UN Trust Fund for Human Security (UNTFHS) for its contribution to an inter-agency programme in South Kordofan, to the Government of Switzerland for the provision of in-kind personnel, and to the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) for its continued support since June 2020.
These funds and in-kind support are, however, only confirmed for 2023 alone. As the ongoing fighting continues to ravage Khartoum and many other areas, UNMAS seeks funding support to respond to urgent humanitarian needs.
Data as of June 2023