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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. Approximately 150 new hazardous areas are found every month. 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

Education: Less than half of South Sudan’s children attend school. Since December 2013, 331 schools are known to have been damaged or destroyed in armed conflict and an additional 113 have been occupied by armed actors. In order for children to return to education, these schools must first be surveyed and cleared of explosive hazards. In May, UNMAS responded to a request from the Norwegian Refugee Council to survey and clear 31 schools in Leer and Mayendit counties. In Pochalla, Jonglei, South Sudan, a group of internally displaced persons (IDPs) were allocated land for resettlement in an area that had not been cultivated for some time. When a lady began to prepare her land, she recognized a landmine near to the surface, thanks to
risk education (RE) she had previously received. The hazard was reported to UNMAS and after investigating, the area was found to be contaminated with mines and in close proximity to a newly built primary school. UNMAS immediately deployed several assets to make the area safe squickly as possible. Plastic sheeting for the families, who had to be temporarily relocated was provided by UNHCR, and a school tent was given by UNICEF, so that the school could also be temporarily relocated, ensuring delivery of educational services was not interrupted. In Juba, following the July 2016 fighting, UNMAS received a call from Head Teacher, Mrs Lucy Andur, at the Green Hill Primary School in Gudele, which had sustained significant damage. Mrs Andur was worried about explosive hazards that could be lying around and the threat they might pose to the children. UNMAS clearance teams deployed to Green Hill to make it safe for Mrs Andur and her pupils, removing a rocket propelled grenade, amongst other items.

Water: In South Sudan just 41% of the population has access to safe water, impacting upon a range of issues including the nutritional and health status of the population. Women and girls are usually responsible for the collection of water and at times are forced to walk long distances to reach safe water points. This can create serious protection risks, while also negatively impacting on the amount of time a girl can spend at school. Unfortunately, water points, such as boreholes, can be strategic targets and as such are often contaminated by landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) following a conflict. Through survey activities, UNMAS has located 755 water points which are contaminated by mines and UXO, 680 of these have now been cleared. In Bentiu, UNMAS received a request from the ICRC to survey and clear borehole sites and in Mundri, UNMAS then 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. Once UNMAS declared the sites safe Oxfam said: “We very much appreciate UNMAS support as it is the only way we can do our job of repairing the boreholes for these populations that are currently drinking from swamp water. It also clearly improves the safety of Oxfam staff in the area and the local population,” Nick Lacey, Programme Manager, Oxfam.

SUPPORT TO UNMISS

UNMAS is part of UNMISS, mandated under Security Council Resolution 2327 (2016). UNMAS operations support three of the four mandated objectives:

During the clashes between opposing government forces at the beginning of July, the Jebel area of Juba, where the UNMISS Headquarters and three Protection of Civilians (PoC) sites are located, saw some of the most intense fighting. When the ceasefire enabled UNMAS to move, quick response teams were deployed to the area to conduct emergency survey and clearance activities. While one team commenced clearance of explosive hazards from Mission offices and accommodations, a second team set to work at the PoC sites. To enhance the safety and
security of the PoC sites at UN House, UNMAS conducted a full perimeter search of the sites, which also involved removing vegetation from 210,000 square metres of land adjacent to the perimeter fences. Once cleared, the Mission was able to create a 200-metre weapons-free zone around the PoC sites to enhance the protection of inhabitants. PoC sites are located throughout the country and they are currently housing over 200,000 people who have been displaced by the ongoing conflict. As the conflict and concurrent humanitarian crisis deepens, increasing demand is placed upon these areas of refuge. By removing explosive hazards from their peripheries, UNMAS regularly supports the Mission to expand the sites enabling a greater number of people to be protected. Canine methods are also used to conduct entry point control.

ACHIEVEMENTS

Since its inception in 2004 UNMAS has:

  • Closed 13,584 hazardous areas, releasing over 1.17 billion square metres of land
  • Opened a total of 27,573 kilometres of road through route assessment and verification
  • Delivered mine risk education for 3,202,150 people, especially targeting vulnerable groups
  • Protected civilians by searching 30,375 vehicles, 108,349 people/bags, 600 areas and 1,562 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 January 2017

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