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) spread across the country. Years of conflict have resulted in widespread explosive hazards that pose a threat to the people of South Sudan
Each year, dozens of 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 the most recent peace agreement, which was signed in August 2015.
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. In addition to threatening physical security, ERW directly impacts a broad spectrum of key humanitarian and development issues, for example: water, sanitation and health (WASH), food and nutrition security, education, and infrastructure.
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 8,168 hazardous areas, released 1.1 billion square metres of land, opened 22,896 km of roads, and supported mine risk education for 2.1 million beneficiaries.
Since the onset of the recent crisis in December 2013, UNMAS has cleared ERW from all UNMISS protection of civilians (PoC) sites and responded to every incident of explosive weapons strikes in and around UN bases. UNMAS has also initiated clearance in areas that will facilitate 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 since the December 2013 crisis:
In accordance with the original UNMISS mandate (Security Council Resolution 1996), UNMAS supported national demining activities, while 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 Security Council Resolutions 2155 and 2223. 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 68 mine action teams that perform the following essential tasks:
(1) Survey and clearance of mines, ERW and ammunition stockpiles.
(2) Route verification and clearance in response to credible threats and providing escorts for convoys on high-threat routes to enable the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
(3) Monitoring, investigating, verifying, and reporting on the use of indiscriminate explosive weapons such as cluster munitions.
(4) Risk education for IDPs and local communities; and awareness training for UN staff and humanitarian actors.
(5) Operational support bases in Bentiu, Bor, Juba, Malakal, and Wau enable UNMISS and humanitarian partners to operate safely and respond in a timely manner.
(6) Data collection, mapping new hazards, and disseminating threat information to humanitarian partners.
(7) Conduct entry point control and surveillance with EDDs.
In light of the peace agreement of August 2015 and the subsequent Security Council Resolution 2252 to support the implementation of this agreement, UNMAS stands ready to provide continued mine action assistance as requested and identified.
A lack of infrastructure and inaccessibility to vast areas during the unpredictable rainy season pose great challenges to operations.
Furthermore, the current emergency continues to present challenges for security and accessibility to conduct mine action interventions; and ongoing 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 Government of Japan for its contribution to the programme through the Voluntary Trust Fund (VTF) for Mine Action.
Updated February 2016