South Sudan is still recovering from years of conflict with its neighbour, the Republic of Sudan. As a result, all ten states that comprise the country are affected by some level of landmine and/or Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) contamination.
DCA will commence clearance operations in Eastern Equatoria state, situated in the South East of the country. According to the Landmine and Cluster Munitions Monitor, the state, which shares its borders with Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia, is the second most contaminated state in South Sudan with both landmines and Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) posing a daily threat to the lives of returning and resident populations. Eastern Equatoria also has the highest level of cluster munition contamination in the country..
As well as directly benefitting local populations, DCA will also provide HMA assistance to national and international NGOs and ACT Alliance partners working in the region.
‘DCA will be working proactively with the ACT Alliance wherever possible,’ says Hannah Bryce, Programme Manager for HMA with DCA South Sudan. ‘We want to be a useful resource and asset that they can call on to help in communities and areas where they are active. We’ll also be supporting our partner organisations through our clearance activities so that we can improve humanitarian access and help to facilitate other humanitarian activities in the region.’
‘In fact,’ adds Peter Bo Larsen, Regional Representative with DCA South Sudan, ‘several partners have shown interest in incorporating surveys and clearance of UXO into their projects already, and we are sure that more will follow.’
With assistance from the Danish Government (DANIDA) and the United States Department of State (USDOS), DCA will initially deploy two Multi-Task Teams (MTTs) and one Risk Education (RE) team.
The MTTs are small, highly mobile units with the capacity to identify, remove and safely destroy one or several items of UXO and other Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) and to carry out technical surveys.
RE teams provide potentially life-saving education regarding the dangers of landmines and UXO as well as how to safely report a suspected hazardous item if found.
This information is particularly important for refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), as explained by Peter Bo Larsen.
‘The country has been at war for 30-40 years and many areas are now highly contaminated. As refugees and IDPs start returning to their homesteads, many people will be settling in areas exposed to heavy fighting.’
Without Risk Education, returning populations may have little or no idea about how to safely live and work with the threat of landmines and UXO in their villages and may try to move or diffuse these items in order to commence farming or build infrastructure.
Through its HMA work, DCA will not only bring direct relief from the dangers posed by landmines and UXO; it will also enable a newly independent country to start rebuilding its economy and infrastructure by improving access.
For example, while South Sudan is a similar size to France, there remains only 200km of paved road in the entire country. Therefore, as explained by Peter Bo, ‘every kilometre of road that can be cleared is immensely important for trade, access to education and health as well as other basic services.’
By James Phillip Gould-Bourn