The extensive use of explosive weapons during the past six years of continuous conflict in Syria poses a grave threat to civilians. Explosive hazards contamination endangers lives of people living in Syria or fleeing the conflict, in addition to hampering the delivery of humanitarian assistance. It is estimated that 6.3 million people are currently living in sub-districts which have been affected by incidents involving explosive weapons. In 88 per cent of sub-districts surveyed in Syria, the issue of explosive hazards has been identified by the local population as a major protection concern.
The presence of landmines, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and explosive remnants of war (ERW) including cluster munitions, impedes freedom of movement, access to livelihoods and the economic recovery of the population. 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 2016, 57 per cent of the sub-districts assessed, agricultural lands were reported to be contaminated, thus rendering it unusable for productive use. Private properties were reported to be contaminated in 38 per cent of the assessed sub-districts. Key infrastructure such as housing, schools, health centres, and water and sanitation systems have been repeatedly targeted; 22 per cent of the sub-districts reported that schools and hospitals were contaminated. Rubble removal and reconstruction efforts will therefore require a mine action component in order to be effective.
The social and economic impact of this explosive contamination will last for generations. Survivors of explosive hazard incidents often suffer physical, emotional and psychological injury, economic loss or substantial impairment of their fundamental rights, which impacts families and communities. Moreover, explosive hazards in Syria will also jeopardize the safe return of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) given their lack of familiarity with resulting contamination.
Mitigating the impact of explosive hazards on civilians in Syria is therefore a major protection priority.
Recognizing 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 has since focused efforts in providing overall coordination for the mine action sector, in addition to technical support and oversight, and implementation of contamination impact survey and risk education activities. Support has also been provided to humanitarian actors to reduce the impact of the explosive threat on their operations through the delivery of risk education and first aid training, information sharing and the development of tailored awareness material.
Due to the complexity of the context of intervention and difficulties in contaminated areas, most efforts focus on implementing risk awareness campaigns in Syria and neighboring countries and conducting surveys to better understand the humanitarian impact of the contamination. Risk education activities ensure that communities are aware of the risks from explosive hazards and are encouraged to behave in ways that reduce the risk to people, property and the environment. In 2016, UNMAS and partners reached over two million people with risk education.
In 2017, UNMAS Syria Response plans to expand victim assistance activities to respond to the needs of survivors and their families.
Mine action is a critical component of the Humanitarian Response Plan 2017. In the first quarter of 2017, the mine action sector has raised 17 percent of its overall funding appeal, but still requires USD36.8 million of the USD44.7 million necessary for an effective humanitarian mine action response. UNMAS Syria Response received USD3.8 million on an appeal of USD10.5 million for coordination, risk education, impact survey, and victim assistance activities in Syria.
Updated: February 2017