Explosive Ordnance Contamination
Explosive ordnance has been widely reported in Syria. Landmines, Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), which are particularly unpredictable and difficult to detect, continue to put the lives of millions of people at risk. All population groups are vulnerable to the threat of explosive ordnance, but certain groups are at higher risk due to age, gender, social roles and responsibilities in addition to their activity patterns – children who will pick up dangerous items, agricultural workers who dig up the land, population groups on the move, such as IDPs, who may enter areas without knowledge of local threats. Men and boys are considered to be the most exposed to the direct, immediate threat of explosive incidents, while women and girls are more affected by their indirect impact, such as being deprived of freedom of movement and the exacerbation of underlying vulnerabilities.
In places like Aleppo, Dara’a, Rural Damascus, Idlib, Raqqa, and Deir ez-Zor Governorates, the presence of explosive ordnance causes injuries and death, limits safe access to services and impedes the delivery of humanitarian aid. While everyone in contaminated areas is at risk, children, farmers, construction workers and people on the move are particularly vulnerable. Residential areas and key infrastructure, such as roads, schools, health centres, agricultural land, and settlements remain unsafe or unserviceable because of contamination, further compounding the social and economic impact of the crisis and possibilities for recovery. Ever increasing numbers of casualties from which a large number of survivors sustain permanent impairments, further contribute to heightening the demand on overwhelmed health services.
Shifting frontlines have added a further layer of explosive ordnance contamination in communities across Syria. According to the draft 2020 Humanitarian Needs Overview, 11.5 million people now live in the 2,562 communities reporting explosive ordnance contamination in the last two years. There is grave concern that returnees are exposed to high risks.
Mine Action Response
Recent and existing contamination, increased displacement and scarce availability of services, in a context of higher risk and lower capacity of actors to safely respond, are exacerbating the severity of needs and make it necessary to expand the scale and scope of humanitarian mine action efforts to allow for comprehensive geographic coverage, and efficient sharing of expertise and resources.
UNMAS and mine action sector partners continue focusing on the protection of civilians through the delivery of age and gender sensitive ordnance risk education, and on bolstering specialized services assisting survivors of explosive ordnance and their families, and persons with disability more broadly. The expansion of explosive ordnance survey and clearance operations, currently limited, continues to be a critical priority.
In the first half of 2020, more than 1.1 million beneficiaries were reached with risk education sessions by UNMAS, humanitarian partners and public service providers. Explosive Hazard Ordnance Awareness (EOA) session were delivered by UNMAS personnel to 186 humanitarian workers in the first half of 2020.
The sector continues to integrate risk education and awareness materials in activities undertaken by other sectors, such as Education, Shelter and Non-Food Items, and Food Security and Livelihoods, to reach a larger number of people at-risk and develop specific protection messages to better inform IDPs about the risks they may face. From Damascus, humanitarian partners continue to work in partnership with different ministries of the Government of Syria to deliver risk education.
Since 2017, 429 contaminated areas have been identified by mine action operators supported by UNMAS in North West, North East and South Syria. The information collected better informs risk education messaging and helps prioritize areas for future surveying, marking and removal of explosive contamination. In August 2020, the first UNMAS explosive ordnance assessment intervention was launched in Rural Damascus.
Efforts to increase and improve assistance to persons with disabilities, including victims of explosive ordnance and their families, have increased. In the first half of 2020, UNMAS and humanitarian mine action partners provided Victim Assistance (VA) services to more than 7,000 people in need in North West, North East and South Syria. Victim assistance includes physical rehabilitation, psycho-social support, vocational training and self-care support.
Humanitarian access continues to be a major challenge for the mine action response:
Whilst mine action access has improved, limited access has impacted operational reach, the provision of adequate mentoring for mine action teams, and hampered the quality assurance mechanisms that assure the quality of mine action tasks.
Data collection has also been difficult in many areas due to access limitations; limiting the sector’s ability to map contamination to fully understand the full scale and scope of the threat.
Access for specialized in-person training and equipment are key to expand survey, marking and clearance operations. As access increases, HMA funding needs will increase.
What Do We Need?
Increased access for humanitarian mine action activities and organizations, so that all pillars of humanitarian mine action can be addressed without restrictions and in accordance with humanitarian principles and protection concerns.
Prioritization of the humanitarian mine action response driven by priority needs of impacted communities.
Comprehensive survey and marking of contaminated and suspected hazardous areas, for both urban and rural areas as well as residential and critical infrastructure.
The removal of explosive ordnance implemented in accordance with international standards to provide immediate protection, enable humanitarian activity, and access to existing services.
Adequate and sustained funding to ensure risk education, victim assistance, survey and clearance are implemented, as they are critical to reducing the risk and impact of the explosive ordnance contamination on the population.
Advocacy for access to allow for comprehensive geographic coverage, more rapid scale-up into new areas, and efficient sharing of expertise and resources, to ensure continuity of the delivery of key lifesaving mine action services
Funding Requirements 2020
In line with the increasing needs in Syria and the buildup of the explosive ordnance threat after almost a decade of hostilities, funding requirements for the sector remain high.
The Mine Action appeal in the 2020 draft Humanitarian Response Plan indicates that USD 53 million will be needed to respond to mine action needs. The Mine Action sector has so far secured 13% of funding for 2020, more support is needed to comprehensively provide much needed, life-saving interventions.
The Programme is anticipating $30 million needed in 2021 for scaled up operations.
Updated: October 2020