A new Mine Risk Education team is born, April 2013

DCA HMA Case Study, Jonglei, South Sudan



The DCA Humanitarian Mine Action (HMA) programme is steadily growing in South Sudan. Having begun operations in January 2013, the programme now has two fully accredited Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams and two Risk Education (RE) teams. A third RE team is currently being recruited. This is all thanks to a donation from the Common Humanitarian Fund administered by UNDP in South Sudan.
The most recent team to be accredited was the second RE team. But accreditation in Mine Action is no easy task!
The recruitment and training took place in Jonglei, a state that is difficult to access, especially in the rainy season, and is plagued not only by mine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) contamination, but also by consistent and fierce tribal conflict. Ensuring the tribal make-up of the team was balanced was very important, as was ensuring that both men and women were represented in the team. In some areas, women only feel comfortable speaking with other women, and man with other men. For this reason, every DCA RE team has both genders represented.
As well as ensuring gender and tribal balances, local languages must also be considered when recruiting a team, as there are over 50 local languages spoken in South Sudan. The team of four that was finally selected for training included people who spoke the following languages: Juba Arabic (a kind of pigeon Arabic), classic Arabic, Dinka, Murle, Nuer, Shilluk, Anyuak and, of course, English, the new national Language of South Sudan. 
The training included all aspects of Risk Education methodology and contents. Safety messages regarding mines, UXO and guns were discussed. Good body language and communication skills were also taught and practiced, as were ways of encouraging audience participation and attention. The team learnt how to tailor their messages depending on the age and gender of their audience, their usual daily routines, their baseline knowledge and their special needs.
“When I started the training course with DCA, I did not know much about landmines or UXO, but I was keen to learn and eager to help protect my fellow people in South Sudan” explained one of the newly trained and accredited RE Assistants, Samson. “I learnt how to recognize landmines and UXO, and which areas are likely to be contaminated. I feel proud that now I will be able to teach others and maybe even save a life.”
The new team has also learnt how to use HF and VHF radios, how to draw and read sketch maps and how to use a compass and GPS.
“It was interesting to learn that North does not move,” said Tut, the youngest member of the team. “This is still something I struggle to understand, but with more practice, I hope I will get it.”
The team needs to know how to calculate compass bearings and distances, and how to draw good quality sketch maps, in order to record dangerous items reported to them, in the safest possible way.
“This was my first time using a compass and GPS and I think it is wonderful,” continued Tut. “In a week of training we have learnt many new things, things people in my village have no idea about. I feel a little bit special now.”
A medic also provided Basic Life Support (BLS) training to the team, a kind of first aid training.
Another team member, Amer, said she enjoyed the BLS training the most. “We learnt how to restart the heart if it stops beating and how to give breaths of air to the patient. We also learnt how to stop bleeding with bandages and how to treat snake bites and scorpion stings. All these skills I can use in my daily life at home, as well as in the field with the team. I am very happy I attended the training.”
Learning new skills and information was not the only challenge the team faced during the training course. The team also dealt with a torrential rain storm that battered their campsite, blew away their laundry and flooded their tents. They also found and killed three scorpions in their kitchen tent. Luckily, the first aid skills they learnt regarding scorpion stings were not needed this time!
When the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) came to accredit the team after the training, their comments were very positive. “This team has lots of energy and the Risk Education they are providing is of a very good standard. Although the team is new, they are working well together. Keep it up!” wrote the QA Officer on her form.
And so, a new team is born. The team, funded by the Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF), will spend the next 6 months travelling around Jonglei state, providing tailor-made and gender specific RE to vulnerable and at risk communities, helping them to stay safe from all kinds of explosive remnants of war.
A new team, in a new country, fighting an old enemy from the past.