Since the outbreak of conflict in 2012, explosive hazards have presented a new threat in Mali, with a broad ranging detrimental impact on safety and freedom of movement in the central and northern parts of the country.
Civilians living in areas affected by explosive remnants of war (ERW) as a result of clashes, returnees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been exposed to potential loss of life and injury (2012: 51 victims; 2013: 54 victims; 2014: 34 victims; 2015: 30 victims). This contamination also impedes the delivery of humanitarian assistance to civilians, as well as access to livelihoods, freedom of movement and economic recovery for the population.
Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have emerged as a weapon of choice for perpetrators of violence in Mali. Since the deployment of the UN peacekeeping Mission in July 2013, UNMAS has recorded 243 IED incidents which have resulted in the death of 82 people, and the injury of 366 more. The number of civilian victims of IEDs has increased significantly during 2015, to a total of 87 victims, while MINUSMA troops have also been severely impacted (64 victims last year). IEDs have made MINUSMA the most dangerous UN peacekeeping mission in the world, impeding the implementation of the mandate.
Despite the efforts of the Malian authorities, the national capacities for mitigating explosive risks and responding to the threat remain limited. Additional efforts are required to ensure safe and secure storage of weapons and ammunition, as well as the disposal of obsolete and unsafe ammunition to prevent accidental explosions.
The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) is mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 2227 to:
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 the ongoing insecurity in the north of the country, the mitigation of explosive threats has become an intrinsic Mission requirement.
UNMAS delivers a wide range of training, including explosive hazard awareness and response, IED search and detect training, and training in the use of individual 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. Furthermore, UNMAS provides technical expertise to MINUSMA contingents for safe handling, storage and disposal of their weapons and ammunition, as well as those weapons 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 training, as well as training of trainers, to the infantry contingents before they deploy with MINUSMA.
UNMAS assists the National authorities in developing technical capacity to safely manage explosive threats, coordinate the explosive threat response and comply with International Mine Action Standards through the provision of training, technical equipment and support, and the mentorship of the Malian Defence and Security Forces (MDSF).
In addition, UNMAS provides advice and training in weapons and ammunition storage and management to help the Malian authorities minimize the risk of accidental explosions or looting. A rehabilitation project for weapons and ammunition storage areas is ongoing with the MDSF. At the request of the national authorities, UNMAS has assessed over 30 ammunition storage facilities and stockpiles of ammunition. Following these assessments, a total of 290 tons of obsolete, unsafe and unserviceable ammunition were safely destroyed since 2014, with the support of UNMAS. Over 256 tons of additional explosive ordnances are currently being destroyed, which will be the largest stockpile to be disposed of by UNMAS and a national authority to date.
UNMAS also advises the National Commission against the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (CNALPC) on Mali’s international obligations regarding mines, ERW and weapons and ammunition, especially for 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 of prioritised dangerous areas; risk education on explosive threats and small arms and light weapons; victim assistance; and armed violence reduction.
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: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as well as Benin, Switzerland and the Kingdom of the Netherlands for in-kind support.
Updated February 2016