Following more than 50 years of civil war and a 6-year Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) period, the Republic of South Sudan became the world’s newest country on 9 July 2011. Throughout the conflict, landmines were used pervasively by all parties to disrupt enemy operations, resulting in widespread contamination of mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) that continue to pose a threat to communities. Each year, people are maimed and killed in accidents, communities are prevented from receiving humanitarian aid, and development and reconstruction is stalled due to the threat of mines and ERW. The socio-economic cost in terms of inhibition of agricultural production, food security, economic activities, and freedom of movement is incalculable.
In mid-December 2013, heavy fighting between armed factions loyal to President Salva Kiir and those loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar erupted in Juba and spread throughout South Sudan. The conflict has continued in many locations despite two ceasefire agreements. The recent fighting, which included the use of cluster munitions, compounded the existing threat from explosive weapons and has led to increased contamination in urban areas, on roads, and in/around United Nations facilities. The additional hazards represent a significant threat to more than 983,000 internally displaced people, local communities, peacekeepers, and humanitarian aid workers. As a result of the current situation, UNMAS assistance has become increasingly critical to provide first-responder assistance to enable the life-saving work of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and its humanitarian partners.
As an integral component of UNMISS, UNMAS works to ensure an effective and coordinated UN response to mines and ERW through collaboration with all interested actors. Since the start of operations, over 1,129 sq km of land has been released as being free of ERW, enabling the construction of schools on the Juba-Yei road, health clinics, agricultural projects in Wau, a rice plantation in Aweil, way stations and an education centre for the blind in Rejaf, among others. By opening routes, UNMAS and its partners work to restore freedom of movement, facilitate the safe return of refugees and IDPs, aid the efficient and effective distribution of emergency relief, and help promote the resumption of livelihood activities.
As part of its crisis response, UNMAS will continue to provide leadership and respond to the on-going emergency to create conditions for the protection of civilians and the delivery of humanitarian assistance. UNMAS will undertake emergency clearance, route verification and risk education in the areas of greatest need and as access allows. In addition, UNMAS will continue to clear areas contaminated from previous conflicts in South Sudan. UNMAS will also be an essential UNMISS partner in its PoC mandate through support to perimeter security and response to incidents of weapons and ammunition being found in and around UNMISS PoC sites throughout the country.
An acute lack of infrastructure and inaccessibility to vast areas of the country during the unpredictable rainy season make operations challenging under normal circumstances. Although there have constantly been sporadic conflicts involving armed violence in South Sudan, the current emergency is an enormous challenge in terms of security and accessibility to conduct mine action interventions. Due to on-going fighting, many additional areas are inaccessible.
UNMAS receives annual funding from the UN Peacekeeping Assessed budget to conduct mine action interventions in support of UNMISS. In order to facilitate additional protection of civilians activities, UNMAS is seeking $14 million to implement emergency landmine and ERW survey and clearance operations to implement activities for the Crisis Response Plan for the on-going emergency. Furthermore, to adequately respond to the risk that explosive munitions pose to communities, UNMAS is seeking $1 million for Physical Security and Stockpile Management projects throughout South Sudan.
Updated May 2014