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Territory of Western Sahara

Since 2008, UNMAS has achieved the following in the Territory of Western Sahara, east of the berm:

 

  • 10,516 kilometres of roads and 148.8 million square metres of land in the Territory of Western Sahara, east of the berm, assessed as safe from explosive hazards, enabling MINURSO peacekeeping operations.
  • 37 of 61 known minefields and 459 of 515 known cluster strike areas cleared
  • 24,494 sub-munitions, 8,830 items of explosive remnants of war (ERW) and 7,870 landmines removed and destroyed, east of the berm, enhancing the safety of MINURSO peacekeepers, locals and nomadic herdsmen.
  • 3,321 MINURSO personnel and 73,343 men, women, boys and girls, including nomadic herdsmen, east of the berm, received ERW awareness briefings and explosive ordnance risk education, enhancing awareness on the dangers posed by ERW.
  • 48 survivors of mine/ERW accidents and 400 of their dependents, east of the berm, benefited from victim assistance projects, allowing for survivor socio-economic reintegration into their communities.

ABOUT

The Territory of Western Sahara is heavily contaminated by landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW). The contamination is a result of the conflict that took place between 1975 and 1991 between the Royal Moroccan Army (RMA), Mauritania and the military forces of the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Sahraui el-Hamra y de Río de Oro (Frente POLISARIO). A 2,700-kilometre-long sand berm stretches from inside southern Morocco to the Atlantic ocean at Guerguerat, dividing the Territory into western and eastern parts. Approximately 1,465 kilometres are heavily impacted by landmines and ERW, including cluster munitions. These explosive ordnance continue to endanger the lives of United Nations military observers monitoring the ceasefire, humanitarian work, nomads, people living in settlements as well as the livestock they depend on. 

UNMAS operates as a component of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). Operating from the MINURSO Headquarters in Laayoune (Territory of Western Sahara) and the MINURSO Liaison Office in Tindouf (Algeria), UNMAS serves as the United Nations focal point for mine action related activities within the MINURSO area of operations. Thanks to funding from donors, UNMAS has reduced the threat posed by landmines and ERW by conducting humanitarian mine clearance, stockpile destructions, explosive ordnance risk education, capacity enhancement of local organizations and by providing assistance to survivors of mine/ERW accidents.

ACTIVITIES

Activities under the MINURSO Assessed Budget

Since 2008, UNMAS has played a critical role in facilitating MINURSO mandate. By clearing minefields and cluster munition strike areas as well as conducting route verification, UNMAS enables MINURSO military observers to safely monitor the ceasefire and the safe passage of humanitarian aid workers and vulnerable local and nomadic populations. In addition, UNMAS delivers ERW awareness briefings for MINURSO military and civilian personnel, enhancing their awareness on the dangers posed by ERW.

In line with the UN and UNMAS gender strategies and the Sustainable Development Goals, UNMAS continues to encourage gender equality in mine action and peace operations.

 

Activities under the Voluntary Trust Fund

Through the generous contributions from the Government of Spain, UNMAS is currently supporting the socio-economic reintegration of survivors of landmine/ERW accidents in the Sahrawi refugee camps of Tindouf (Algeria) in cooperation with the Sahrawi Association of Victims of Landmines (ASAVIM). Moreover, UNMAS supports the Sahrawi Mine Action Coordination Office (SMACO) with unearmarked funding from the Government of Denmark, which has been allocated towards the daily operational management of mine action related activities east of the berm. In addition, UNMAS supports the SMACO through capacity enhancement, towards independent coordination of mine action activities in accordance with international and local mine action standards.

 

FUNDING 

UNMAS operations in the Territory of Western Sahara are funded from MINURSO budget (US$3.265 million per year). This allows for the deployment of two multi-task teams and one area reduction team.

The Swiss Government provides in-kind specialist personnel to
logistics, risk education and information management. In addition, for 2019-2020, the Government of Spain is supporting UNMAS with $67,660 while the Government of Denmark contributed $60,000.

Any additional funds received will allow for the deployment of more teams east of the berm and the subsequent release of high priority hazardous areas. Funding is also sought to support victim assistance, explosive ordnance risk education and capacity enhancement.

For more information:

Leon Louw, Programme Manager, UNMAS Programme in the Territoty of Western Sahara, LouwL@un.org

Edwin Faigmane, Programme Officer, UNMAS Western Sahara, edwin.faigmane@un.org

Paul Heslop, Chief of Programmes, UNMAS New York, heslop@un.org

 

Statistics are from 2008 to December 2019

Updated January 2020