The extensive use of explosive weapons during nearly six years of conflict poses a grave threat to Syrians, humanitarian response operations, and livelihood activities. In 2016, the presence of explosive hazards has continued to threaten the lives and livelihoods of affected communities and endanger humanitarian actors seeking to provide them with aid. 6.3 million people are living in sub-districts most affected by incidents involving explosive weapons. In 88% of sub-districts surveyed in Syria, the issue of explosive hazards has been identified as a protection concern. Contamination is endangering the lives and livelihoods of generations, restricts freedom of movement, is a barrier to meeting basic needs, and prevents the safe deployment of aid.
In the most recent UN protection assessment, explosive hazards were identified as a concern in 88 percent of sub-districts. 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, coalition UXO, and cluster munitions.
While urban areas are the targets of most attacks, landmine-related incidents are recorded more 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 pasturelands, near wells and riverbanks, affecting agriculture-based livelihoods. In 57% 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% 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. 22% 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% have adequate WASH facilities.
Following the passage of Security Council Resolution 2165, the UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator requested UNMAS to deploy and provide assistance as mine action was viewed as a humanitarian priority for the Syrian crisis. UNMAS deployed a team to southern Turkey in August 2015 and mine action has since been fully integrated in the humanitarian response. UNMAS provides overall coordination for the mine action sector, technical support and oversight, and has supported direct implementation of survey, clearance and risk education activities by international and Syrian partners.
The removal of explosive hazards is contributing to the protection of civilians, improves access to basic services, the resumption of livelihood activities, and reduces the risk of the explosives being harvested and used for IEDs.
UNMAS and partners are conducting risk education projects, spread geographically across Syria and in neighbouring countries targeting the refugee population, as well as survey and clearance projects. As of end September 2016, partners had reached 1.9 million people with risk education and removed over 2,500 improvised landmines and over 3,300 items of unexploded ordnance, including cluster munitions. .
UNMAS 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.
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 without the technical ability to do so. The capacity of some local teams conducting clearance has been reduced by half as a result of casualties occurring during operations.
While conventional clearance is not currently possible across all of Syria, UNMAS believes it is possible to train local capacity to survey and clear cluster munitions and other ERW using non-explosive methods in areas inaccessible to technical mine action personnel.
In 2016, the mine action sector still requires $25 million of the $39.8 million required for a rapid and effective humanitarian mine action response, which includes explosive hazard survey, clearance, 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. As part of the response, UNMAS is seeking donor funding for the mine action sector to train teams to conduct cluster munitions clearance.
Updated: November 2016