Explosive Hazard Contamination
Explosive hazards have 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 hazards, 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 knowing the localized 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 the deprivation 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 hazards cause injuries and death, limit safe access to services and impede 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 contributes to heightening the demand on overwhelmed health services.
Shifting frontlines have added a further layer of explosive hazard contamination in communities across Syria. According to the 2019 Humanitarian Needs Overview, 10.2 million people now live in the 1,980 communities reporting explosive hazards and an estimated 1.5 million people spontaneously returned to potentially unsafe areas in 2018. There is grave concern that returnees are exposed to high risks. In Ar-Raqqa city alone, hundreds of civilians have been killed or injured by explosive hazards returning to the city in 2018.
Mine Action Response
Operating in a complex environment characterized by active conflict and limited access for explosive hazard survey, marking, and removal, the mine action sector has sought to mitigate the impact of explosive hazards on civilians by bolstering risk education efforts. In 2018, the humanitarian sector and its partners delivered risk education to more than 2.5 million people – 1.3 million of which were children - in accessible areas and UN-classified “hard-to-reach” locations.
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 developed 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.
Surveys of explosive hazards and contaminated areas were carried out in 247 different communities across 48 sub-districts. The information collected better informs risk education messaging and helps prioritize areas for future surveying, marking and removal of explosive hazards. Clearance activities are taking place in North East Syria through cross-border partners while access issues in other parts of the country continue to limit the expansion of clearance into other hubs at this time.
Efforts to increase and improve assistance to persons with disabilities, including victims of explosive hazards and their families, have increased. In 2018, specialized services were provided to 8,600 survivors a marked increase compared to the 1,539 reached in 2017. Victim assistance includes physical rehabilitation, psycho-social support, vocation training and self-care support.
Humanitarian access continues to be a major challenge for the mine action response:
- Limited access has impacted operational reach, the provision of adequate mentoring for mine action teams, and hampered the quality assurance mechanisms that ensure the quality of mine action tasks.
- Data collection has also been difficult in many areas due to access limitations; limiting the sector’s the ability to map contamination to fully understand the full scale and scope of the threat.
- Access for specialized in-person training and equipment. These are key to expand survey, marking and clearance operations. As access is increased – HMA funding needs will increase.
What Do We Need?
- Increased access for humanitarian mine action activities and organisations, so that all pillars of humanitarian mine action can be carried out 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 areas, for both urban and rural areas as well as residential and critical infrastructure.
- The removal of explosive hazards 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 hazard contamination on the population.
- Recognition that as access and humanitarian mine action capacity expands, funding needs and support for mine action will increase significantly.
Funding Requirements 2018-19
In line with the increasing needs in Syria and the cumulative compounding of the explosive hazard threat after 8 years of hostilities, funding requirements for the sector are higher than previous years.
The Mine Action appeal in the 2019 draft Humanitarian Response Plan indicates that USD 59.6 million will be needed to respond to mine action needs.
While the Mine Action sector has already secured 48% of funding for 2019, more support is yet needed to comprehensively provide much needed, life-saving interventions.
Updated: March 2019