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Ruins in Quneitra, Syria. © UN Photo/Milton Grant

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The extensive use of explosive weapons during five years of conflict poses a grave threat to Syrians,humanitarian response operations, and livelihood activities. It is estimated that 5.1 million people areliving in highly contaminated areas, with more than 2 million children directly exposed to the risk ofexplosive weapons. The most recent UN protection assessment highlighted explosive hazards as thenumber two concern for thepopulation, with significantneeds identified in 39 percent ofsub-districts. Contaminationfrom the conflict includeslandmines, explosive remnantsof war (ERW), improvisedexplosive devices (IEDs), artisanalmines, some of which areconnected to booby traps,coalition UXO, and clustermunitions.

While urban areas are the targets of most attacks, landmine-related incidents are recorded morefrequently in the countryside and the high presence of IEDs remains a significant threat. Landmines areplanted along roads, or are concealed in fields and pasturelands, near wells and riverbanks, affectingagriculture-based livelihoods. Key infrastructure such as housing, schools, health centres, andwater/sanitation systems have been repeatedly targeted. The contamination is endangering the livesand livelihoods of generations, restricts freedom of movement, is a barrier to meeting basic needs, andprevents the safe deployment of aid.


Following the adoption of Security Council Resolution 2165, the UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinatorrequested UNMAS to deploy and provide assistance as mine action was viewed as a humanitarianpriority for the Syrian crisis. UNMAS deployed a team to southern Turkey in August 2015 and mineaction is now fully integrated in the humanitarian response. UNMAS provides overall coordination forthe mine action sector and partners, technical support and oversight, and has supported directimplementation of clearance and risk education activities.

UNMAS is coordinating the work of three international organisations conducting clearance and at leastfour additional organisations are expected to start activities in 2016. In Kobane, this work resulted in thedestruction of 14 tonnes of ERW. Moreover, 17 houses, three schools, one hospital, four playgroundsand 21 shops were searched, cleared and returned to the community.

The removal of explosive hazards is contributing to the protection of civilians, improves access to basicservices, the resumption of livelihood activities, and reduces the risk of the explosives being harvestedand used for IEDs.
UNMAS and several organisations areconducting risk education projects, spreadgeographically across Syria and inneighbouring countries targeting therefugee population. In the latter half of2015, partners reached 110,000 peopleinside Syria and provided safety briefings to166 UN and NGO staff.

Since deploying to southern Turkey, UNMASestablished a coordination mechanism forvictim assistance through the Mine ActionSub Cluster. UNMAS aims to expand thenumber of organisations participating in thesub cluster and implementing activities that respond to the needs of survivors and their families.


Ongoing conflict in many governorates prevents access by humanitarian mine action organisations. Theextent and impact of contamination has resulted in Syrians with no formal training conducting ad hocclearance without the technical ability to do so. The capacity of some local teams conducting clearancehas been reduced by half as a result of casualties occurring during operations.

While a comprehensive humanitarian clearance programme is not currently possible, UNMAS believes itis possible to train local capacity to survey and clear cluster munitions and other ERW. Since these areasare inaccessible to qualified international staff, capacity building adapted to the threat and needs ofcommunities will be the key to reducing the threat. To address this, UNMAS will begin a training andmentoring programme for national organisations in early 2016 to deal with specific explosive hazardssafely.


In 2016, the mine action sector requires $31.1 million for a rapid and effective humanitarian mine actionresponse, which includes explosive hazard survey, clearance, risk education and victim assistance. Therequirements are for activities inside Syria, as well as cross-border activities and the provision of riskeducation to Syrian refugees living in neighbouring countries. As part of the response, UNMAS is seekingdonor funding for the mine action sector to train teams to conduct cluster munitions clearance.      

Updated: May 2016

Programme of:


Mine Action Contacts for Syria

Sarah Marshall, Programme Manager