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

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The extensive use of explosive weapons during nearly six years of continuous conflict poses a grave threat to Syrians, humanitarian operations, and livelihood activities. In 2016, the presence of explosive hazards has continued to threaten the lives and livelihoods of affected communities and endangers humanitarian actors seeking to provide aid. Approximately six million people are living in sub-districts affected by incidents involving explosive weapons. In 88 per cent of sub-districts surveyed in Syria, the issue of explosive hazards has been identified as a protection concern.[1]Contamination is endangering the lives and livelihoods of generations, restricting freedom of movement, presenting a barrier to meeting basic needs, and preventing the safe deployment of aid. Contamination from the conflict includes landmines, explosive remnants of war (ERW), improvised explosive devices (IEDs), artisanal mines, some of which are connected to booby traps, unexploded ordnance (UXO), and cluster munitions.

While urban areas are the targets of most attacks, landmine-related incidents are recorded frequently in the countryside and the high presence of IEDs remains a significant threat. Landmines are planted along roads, or are concealed in fields and pasture land, near wells and riverbanks, affecting agriculture-based livelihoods. In 57 per cent of assessed sub-districts, agricultural land was reported to be contaminated, thus rendering it unusable for productive use. Private property was reported to be contaminated in 38 per cent of assessed sub-districts.

Key infrastructure such as housing, schools, health centres, and water/sanitation systems have been repeatedly targeted; reconstruction will therefore require a mine action component. Furthermore, 22 per cent of sub-districts reported that schools and hospitals were contaminated with explosive hazards. Moreover, the absence of safe and suitable learning spaces was identified as a barrier to education in 2016; the education sector reports that 1 in 4 education facilities are not functional and only 40 per cent have adequate Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities.



Recognising the need for mine action as a priority for the Syrian humanitarian response, the United Nations Regional Humanitarian Coordinator requested UNMAS assistance in August 2015. UNMAS established the UNMAS Syria Response programme, opening an office in Gaziantep, Turkey, the same month.

Mine action has now been fully integrated in the humanitarian response. UNMAS Syria Response provides overall coordination for the mine action sector and partners, technical support and oversight, and has supported direct implementation of Contamination Impact Surveys (CIS) and risk education activities.

The existence of explosive hazards is threatening lives, hampering access to basic services, the resumption of livelihood activities, and increasing the risk of the explosives being harvested and used for IEDs.

UNMAS Syria Response and partners are conducting risk education projects spread geographically across Syria and in neighbouring countries, targeting the refugee population. As of the end of December 2016, partners had reached 2,051,280 people with risk education. During November and December 26 surveys were completed.

UNMAS Syria Response also aims to expand the number of organisations participating in the sub cluster and implementing activities that respond to the needs of survivors and their families. In 2017, UNMAS Syria Response intends to expand victim assistance activity in cooperation with implementing partners.

Over the past twelve months, UNMAS Syria Response conducted two risk education workshops, two information management workshops and two IED threat mitigation workshops.  


Ongoing conflict in many governorates prevents access by humanitarian mine action organisations. The extent and impact of contamination has resulted in Syrians with no formal training conducting ad hoc clearance. The capacity of some local teams conducting clearance has been reduced by half as a result of casualties occurring during operations.


In 2017, the mine action sector still requires $14.2 million of the $18 million required for a rapid and effective humanitarian mine action response, which includes explosive hazard survey, risk education and victim assistance. The appeal includes activities inside Syria, as well as cross-border activities and the provision of risk education to Syrian refugees living in neighbouring countries.

Updated: January 2017

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