Recent and on-going armed conflict in Mali has created a problem of weapons and explosive hazards contamination. The presence of explosive remnants of war (ERW), improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and landmines threatens the lives of thousands of people in the regions of Kidal, Gao, Timbuktu and Mopti.
Civilians living in affected areas, refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) are exposed to potential loss of life and injuries. Since January 2012, 116 were injured and 28 killed, including 83 children (19 girls and 64 boys). This contamination also impedes the delivery of humanitarian assistance to civilians, as well as access to livelihoods, freedom of movement and economic recovery. The number of incidents significantly increased in May and June 2015, due to armed conflict and terrorist activities in the north, with 14 victims reported in a few weeks.
National and international security forces remain the most impacted by this explosive threat, with 332 (67 killed and 265 injured) casualties since 2013, representing 60.9 per cent of IED casualties. Malian forces, peacekeeping troops and French forces have faced difficulties with deployment as a result, hampering stabilization efforts and the extension of the State authority.
Mandated by Security Council Resolution 2227, adopted on 27 June 2015, the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS):
UNMAS provides explosive threat mitigation support to MINUSMA, facilitating freedom of movement for peacekeeping and civilian personnel, and ensuring safety for the delivery of the Mission mandate. Given ongoing insecurity in North Mali, mitigating explosive threats is essential to the Mission to ensure stability.
UNMAS delivers a wide range of training, including explosive hazard awareness, IED response and how to use first aid kits. Specialized training, technical assistance and equipment have also been provided to the MINUSMA Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) companies deployed in the North. In addition, UNMAS provides technical expertise to MINUSMA contingents to safely handle, store and dispose of weapons and ammunition, as well as those identified during the course of disarmament initiatives.
To help ensure infantry troops arrive in Mali adequately prepared to operate effectively in an IED threat environment, UNMAS also provides IED avoidance threat mitigation training to the contingents of infantry troops deployed with MINUSMA.
UNMAS also helps national authorities develop the technical capacity to safely manage explosive threats and comply with International Mine Action Standards by providing training, mentoring and equipment to the Malian Defence and Security Forces (MDSF). UNMAS also supports the creation and operationalization of a National Operational Coordination Centre for EOD and IED.
In addition, UNMAS advises and trains in weapons and ammunition management to help national authorities minimize the risk of accidental explosions or looting and establish a baseline of good practice for ammunition storage and management. A project of rehabilitation of weapons and ammunition storage areas for the MDSF is ongoing.
At the request of the national authorities, UNMAS assessed ammunition storage facilities and stockpiles of unserviceable, obsolete and unsafe ammunition. Since 2014, a total of 290 tons of obsolete and unserviceable ammunition were safely destroyed with UNMAS support. Over 130 tons of additional ammunition will also be destroyed in coming weeks, which will be the largest stockpile to be disposed of by UNMAS and national authorities to date.
UNMAS also advises the National Commission against the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (CNALPC) on Mali’s international obligations, especially on the implementation of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW).
UNMAS implements, supports and coordinates humanitarian mine action activities, which include survey, marking and clearance once prioritized dangerous areas; risk education on explosive threats and small arms light weapons; victim assistance; and armed violence reduction.
When the number of civilian accidents spiked in May and June 2015, UNMAS initiated a humanitarian response, using its implementing partners Mine Advisory Group (MAG) and Dan Church Aid (DCA), to provide emergency risk education in areas heavily contaminated by ERW as a result of ongoing clashes in Menaka and Djebok.
UNMAS further ensures that international partners work in compliance with International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) through Quality Assurance in all areas of deployment from its field offices in Timbuktu, Gao, Kidal, Mopti and Tessalit.
UNMAS in Mali thanks its bilateral donors: Estonia, France, Japan, the UK, and the USA, and the in-kind assistance from Benin, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
Updated August 2015