UNMAS intervention in Gaza seeks to reduce the threat and impact of explosive remnants of war (ERW) on peace and security, humanitarian relief, and socio-economic development in Gaza by addressing the following needs in 2016-17: (i) protection of civilians from ERW threats; (ii) support to reconstruction through ERW risk mitigation measures and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) support; and (iii) emergency preparedness to respond to escalation in conflict.
Over two years since the end of the 2014 Gaza Conflict, while much of the visible surface ERW contamination has been removed, items of ERW still contaminate Gaza, mostly in the form of unexploded aircraft bombs, tank shells, and other munitions located below ground or in building debris. Subsurface contamination, real or suspected, complicates and delays reconstruction efforts and poses a danger to internally displaced people (IDPs) returning home. Contamination also exists from the intermittent exchange of fire between the parties over the past years.
PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS
Risk awareness and education, is critical to mitigating the risks posed to civilians by ERW contamination. UNMAS works closely with UNICEF, UNRWA and other international organizations to ensure the widespread delivery of risk education across the Gaza Strip by conducting training of trainers and quality assurance. Since the 2014 conflict, UNMAS has provided over 2,432 training sessions to enable close to 70,249 UN staff, humanitarian workers, IDPs, engineers, construction workers and other at-risk populations including 44,819 children to identify and safely respond to ERW contamination. Within the Protection Cluster, UNMAS leads the ERW/Mine Action sub-cluster, coordinating all NGOs and UN entities to ensure beneficiaries receive timely and targeted support.
SUPPORT TO RECONSTRUCTION: RISK MITIGATION & SUB-SURFACE CLEARANCE
The suspected presence of ERW also impedes the clean-up and reconstruction of vital housing and infrastructure. In response, UNMAS delivers an ERW risk mitigation process to ensure that reconstruction and rubble removal are taking place safely and without delay. This consists in the provision of ERW training sessions, ERW risk assessments, quality assurance and 24/7 EOD support to the various reconstruction projects that aim to construct roads, public facilities, public parks, water wells and other infrastructure in over a 100 municipalities. The ‘ERW risk assessment’ is a systematic and investigative process that involves identifying explosive hazards, predicting possible incidents, and determining the impact of hazards and mitigation measures that can be implemented or planned. As such, UNDP, UNICEF, UNRWA, JICA, USAID, and others request UNMAS to provide on-site ERW training sessions, quality assurance, risk assessments, and EOD support to their rubble removal, reconstruction and infrastructure projects.
For example, UNMAS at the end of 2014 partnered with UNDP’s Rubble Removal project - which formed a key part of the UN response to reconstruction following the conflict: UNMAS provided 650 site-specific risk assessments, on-site ERW safety training sessions for workers and site-managers, and quality assurance on implementation of safe practices at all UNDP sites. UNMAS has responded to 250 instances of suspected ERW and cleared 348 ERW items from Rubble Removal sites. As a result, by the end of their Rubble Removal project in March 2016, UNMAS support had allowed UNDP to clear 1 million tons of rubble from heavily contaminated areas without a single ERW accident.
UNMAS has assessed 135 locations as having a high likelihood of containing buried aerial bombs. Each site requires meticulous excavation work followed by neutralization of complex bomb systems by UNMAS bomb disposal experts working up to 12 meters below the ground; so far, UNMAS has cleared 67 such sites and destroyed 1,200 kilograms of high explosives. Clearance of this subsurface contamination supported reconstruction of vital infrastructure and housing in Gaza by UNDP, UNICEF and other partners. This dangerous and necessary work prompted the Secretary-General to honor, in November 2016, two UNMAS Gaza bomb disposal experts with the SG Courage Award.
United Nations Special Coordinator for Middle East Peace Process Mladenov has repeatedly warned the Security Council that, without resolution of the structural sources of conflict – i.e. the lack of political settlement and the continued blockade of Gaza - the specter of recurrent hostilities between Israel and Gaza will persist. UNMAS in Gaza maintains emergency preparedness that is in concert with contingency planning of UN partners.
Since 2015, UNMAS has received USD 6.2 million from Japan, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Denmark, Italy, Korea, Poland and Estonia. For the next 18 months, UNMAS is seeking USD 2.7 million as part of a multi-donor funded programme
Updated: January 2017