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 explosive remnants of war (ERW) continued to increase, resulting in widespread explosive hazards that pose a threat to the people of South Sudan.
Each year, people are maimed and killed in accidents, communities are prevented from receiving humanitarian aid, and development is stalled because of the threat of mines and ERW. The socio-economic cost of interrupted agricultural production, food insecurity, halted commerce and the lack of freedom of movement is incalculable.
In December 2013, fighting erupted in Juba between armed factions. The conflict spread throughout South Sudan and has continued in some locations despite numerous ceasefire agreements. The on-going fighting is increasing contamination in urban areas, on roads, near vital infrastructure such as airfields, and in and around United Nations facilities. The additional hazards threaten the more than 1.5 million internally displaced people, local communities, peacekeepers and humanitarian aid workers.
UNMAS serves as a critical first-responder to enable the life-saving work of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and humanitarian partners. Before the outbreak of violence in December 2013, UNMAS had cleared 8,164 hazardous areas, released 1,124,406,403 metres of land, opened 22,896 km of roads, and supported mine risk education for 2,130,019 beneficiaries.
Since December 2013, UNMAS has cleared ERW from all UNMISS Protection of Civilians (PoC) areas and responded to every incident of explosive weapons strikes in and around UN bases. UNMAS has also initiated clearance in areas that would ensure the safe return of civilians to their homes and is assessing major roads to make them accessible to civilians, peacekeepers and humanitarian aid workers. UNMAS has also achieved the following:
In accordance with the original UNMISS mandate (SCR 1996), UNMAS supported the Government’s demining activities, strengthening mine action capacity and compliance with International Mine Action Standards.
In response to the December crisis, UNMAS realigned its resources and operations to the new UNMISS mandate under Security Council Resolution 2155. Consistent with the new priorities, UNMAS supports three of the four mandated activities, namely PoC; 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. To achieve this, UNMAS coordinates and tasks 65 mine action teams that perform the following essential tasks:
An acute lack of infrastructure and inaccessibility to vast areas during the unpredictable rainy season pose great challenges to operations. The current emergency also presents challenges for security and accessibility to conduct mine action interventions; and on-going fighting has added new contamination which threatens lives and livelihoods.
UNMAS receives funding to conduct mine action interventions from the UN Peacekeeping assessed budget. UNMAS thanks the Governments of Japan, Korea and Italy for their contributions to the programme through the Voluntary Trust Fund (VTF) for Mine Action.
Updated March 2015