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South Sudan

South Sudan celebrates International Mine Awareness Day. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

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UNMAS IN SOUTH SUDAN

The Republic of South Sudan became the world’s newest country in July 2011, following more than 50 years of civil war and a six-year Comprehensive Peace Agreement period. Landmines were used by all parties to the conflict to disrupt enemy operations and contamination from other explosive remnants of war (ERW) is spread across the country. Nearly eight million people in South Sudan live in counties where the presence of ERW threaten their safety, which includes the more than 2.3 million people – one in every five people in South Sudan – who have been forced to flee their homes since December 2013. In recently conducted surveys, internally displaced people (IDPs) overwhelmingly stated that lack of security, including fear of ERW, is the most significant disincentive for their return.

IMPACT

Food: Nearly 3.2 million people across South Sudan are nutritionally insecure.  WFP is trying to access vulnerable populations using all means at its disposal – airdrops, river boats and, where they exist, roads.  One of the many challenges that they encounter is the presence of landmines and unexploded ordnance.  WFP works in close partnership with UNMAS.  In conflict areas, landing strips are often strategic targets and UNMAS prioritizes the survey and clearance of runways and helicopter landing sites, to ensure that the humanitarian community can safely access areas of operation.  When WFP conducts air drops, they request UNMAS to first survey the sites for explosive hazards to ensure that the food can be safely retrieved and distributed. One such task in October 2015 enabled WFP to deliver 2,700 metric tons of food to 110,000 IDPs in the UNMISS protection of civilians site in Bentiu.   Clearance of explosive hazards releases land for productive agricultural use.  Additionally the clearance of roads facilitates the transportation of from suppliers to markets and households.

Water: Boreholes and water sources can be strategic targets where mines and explosive remnants of war are laid.  In South Sudan, UNMAS regularly investigates boreholes which are suspected to have been booby trapped and surveys areas in former conflict zones so that engineers can install water pipes or drill boreholes.   Furthermore, UNMAS clears minefields in which natural water resources (such as rivers) are located, so they can be safely accessed for household or agricultural use.

Health:  In conflict areas such as Greater Upper Nile, 55 per cent of health facilities are longer functioning. The population relies on NGOs and UN agencies who work in areas where there is significant risk from landmines and unexploded ordnance. UNMAS supports these frontline responders by surveying helicopter landing site, airstrips and medical facilities to enable them to safely access those most in need. Many clinics and hospitals in South Sudan have been occupied by armed combatants who often leave explosive hazards behind when they vacate the premises, rendering it unsafe for use.  UNMAS is aware of 113 hospitals that have been contaminated by explosive hazards and has cleared 95 of these.  For example, in Bentiu, UNMAS was asked by UNICEF and the Ministry of Health to survey and clear the Care Health Clinic after a rocket propelled grenade was found inside. This action enabled health service delivery to be restored.

Education: Since December 2013, 331 schools have been damaged or destroyed as a result of the conflict and 113 have been, or remain occupied by armed actors. A recent UNICEF report stated that in pre-crisis South Sudan less than half of its children attended school. When fighters leave behind Small Arms Ammunition (SAA) and UXO schools are rendered unsafe. UNMAS worked to survey and clear schools, which were prioritized, in partnership with education actors including the Ministry of Education such to enable the restoration of safe access to education at these sites. 

Protection: More than 2.3 million people – 1 in every 5 people in South Sudan - have been forced to flee their homes since the conflict began, including 1.66 million internally displaced people. Over 185,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have sought refuge in UN protection of civilians (PoC) sites. To accommodate the influx and prevent the spread of disease, fires, flooding, etc., the boundaries of these sites have been forced to expand.  At the UNMISS/Bentiu PoC and others, UNMAS has cleared land to enable the safe expansion of PoC sites, thus enabling IDPs to have secure shelter in a protected area. UNMAS regularly surveys routes to enable UNMISS to conduct protection patrols, on foot or in a vehicle convoy. The foot patrols accompany women who have to leave the PoC area to collect firewood and were vulnerable to sexual and gender based violence. Additionally, Explosive Detection Dogs are regularly used to enhance security at UNMISS entry control points at IDP/ PoC camps, in addition to being used to check luggage and cargo. 

ACHIEVEMENTS

Since its inception in 2004 UNMAS has:

  • Closed 12,498 hazardous areas, releasing 1.17 billion square metres of land
  • Opened a total of 27,253 kilometres of road through route assessment and verification.
  • Delivered mine risk education for 2,954,730 people, especially targeting vulnerable groups.
  • Protected civilians by searching 22,669 vehicles, 86,877 people/bags, 600 areas and 1,433 buildings/accommodation units with Explosive Detection Dogs

FUNDING 

UNMAS South Sudan mainly receives funding to conduct mine action interventions from the UN Peacekeeping assessed budget. In addition, it receives funding from the Government of Japan through the Voluntary Trust Fund (VTF) for Mine Action.

Updated May 2016

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