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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 persons (IDPs) overwhelmingly stated that lack of security, including fear of ERW, is the most significant disincentive for their return.

IMPACT

Education: Since December 2013, 331 schools are known to have been damaged or destroyed in armed conflict and 113 have been occupied by armed actors. Already, less than half of South Sudan’s children attend school and when fighters leave behind small arms ammunition and unexploded ordnance (UXO), schools are rendered unsafe. To date, UNMAS has cleared 88 of the contaminated schools. In May 2016, UNMAS was requested by the Norwegian Refugee Council to survey and clear schools in Leer and Mayendit counties. Thirty-one schools were identified for clearance and 21 of these have been cleared so far.

In Pochalla, IDPs were allocated land for resettlement in an area that had not been cultivated for some time. One woman recognized a landmine within her allocated plot. Subsequently, and after investigation, UNMAS found extensive landmine contamination in close proximity to the newly built primary school nearby. The school was promptly closed and temporarily relocated and, with the support of UNHCR and UNICEF, delivery of educational services continued uninterrupted. 

Protection: Following the recent fighting in Juba from 7 to 11 July 2016, extensive contamination by UXO and ERW occurred. This included UN locations and civilian areas frequently accessed by humanitarian actors. In order to facilitate the continued delivery of life-saving services, UNMAS prioritized the survey and clearance of UN and humanitarian infrastructure, including the UN designated apron at Juba International Airport, as well as civilian locations in Juba. Since 12 July, UNMAS has removed UXO and ERW through these clearance operations and, in further support of UNMISS, UNMAS has supported POC searches at both UN House and the Tomping Base. In addition, Radio Miraya has broadcast a series of safety messages, both in English and Arabic, to advise people to report any suspicious looking objects. The initial response to these broadcasts was significant with many people calling the designated hotline to report potential hazards.

Water: Boreholes and water sources can be strategic targets where mines and ERW are laid. Through survey activities, UNMAS has located 690 water points, which are contaminated by mines and UXO. To date, 594 have been cleared. Recently, in Bentiu, UNMAS received a request from the ICRC to survey and clear borehole sites and in Mundri, UNMAS received a similar request from Oxfam. Oxfam reported that, afraid of explosive hazards in or close to their boreholes, the local population was consuming swamp water. 

SUPPORT TO UNMISS

In accordance with the original UNMISS mandate (SCR 1996), UNMAS supported national demining activities, strengthening mine action capacity and compliance with International Mine Action Standards. In response to the December 2013 crisis, UNMAS realigned its resources and operations to the new UNMISS mandate under TEH in Security Council Resolutions 2155 and 2223. Consistent with the new priorities, UNMAS supports three of the four mandated activities, namely protection of civilians; creating conditions for the delivery of humanitarian assistance; and supporting monitoring, verifying and reporting on human rights issues such as the use of cluster munitions. In light of the Peace Agreement signed in August 2015 and the subsequent Security Council Resolutions 2252 (2015) and 2304 (2016) to support the implementation of this agreement, UNMAS continues to provide all mine action assistance as requested by the Mission.

ACHIEVEMENTS

Since its inception in 2004 UNMAS has:

  • Closed 13,296 hazardous areas, releasing 1.17 billion square metres of land
  • Opened a total of 27,450 kilometres of road through route assessment and verification
  • Delivered risk education for 3,092,377 people, especially targeting vulnerable groups
  • Protected civilians by searching 23,512 vehicles, 96,375 people/bags, 600 areas and 1,436 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 September 2016

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