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Safe Ground Campaign: Youth engagement as part of removal of explosive hazards in Somalia

After two incidents related to landmine and unexploded ordnances in Heral town in Galmudug Federal State in Somalia, UNMAS received a request from Galmudug Mine Action Center to urgently deploy a clearance team to conduct clearance operations in the outskirts of the town. UNMAS deployed a multi-task team on November 2018 to reduce the threat of hazards. The clearance team carried out a systematic surface search in town and surrounding area. Because of sporadic armed conflict between clan militias, the outskirts of the town have become contaminated with explosive hazards. The team found various Small Armed Ammunition (SAA) and other Explosive Remnant of War (ERW). These items posed a threat to communities living around Heral. Explosive contamination limited movement of the residents in the outskirts of the town.

The clearance team found 857 items (88 UXO, 709 Small Armed ammunition (SAA), 6 Free from Explosive Devices (FFE) of different caliber and 54 pieces of metal scrap). The team conducted clearance operations for more than 9 months, clearing an area of 8.2 Sq km. 797 items explosives were either destroyed or removed. After completion of the clearance, UNMAS handed over the cleared area back to SEMA (Somalia Explosive Management Authority) and the community in Heral on Sept 5 2019. “This was clearance was a much-needed initiative. We have witnessed few incidents in that area. It killed a few boys in the town. We appreciate what the young men accomplished today.” Abdi remarked, a resident in Heral.”

SAFE Ground Campaign

Turning contaminated land with explosives to useable land that provides utility for the local communities is a part of UNMAS underlying mission. Clearing land from explosive contamination fosters economic growth and eases movement of goods and services. In 2019, UNMAS has launched Safe Ground Campaign to raise awareness and resources for the victims and survivors of armed conflict through the promotion of sport, mine action and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

To mark the completion of the clearance process in Heral, UNMAS in coordination with the Somali Explosive Authority, organized a football game between the youth. Two teams representing different neighborhoods in the town played on serviced and cleaned football pitch. After receiving risk education messages on the dangers of explosive hazards, the two teams and UNMAS contractors cleaned the football pitch, marked the ground, and installed nets for the goalie. UNMAS provided football gears which including footballs, nets, air pumps, whistle, flags, uniforms for plays and referees, flags, medals and trophies. UNMAS support to the Youth in Heral was facilitated through regional SEMA representative in Galmudug and the focal point for sports and youth Abudwaq district.

Community elders and the local authority attended the game. They were happy to see the youth of the town coming together to clear the football pitch and play in a competitive friendly game. The local authority in the district and community leaders presented medals and trophies to both teams and congratulate them on a great effort from both sides. 

Sports is a great vehicle to engage the youth in productive activities and raise awareness about the dangers of explosive hazards. Making land free from explosives and safe for public use is at the cornerstone of community recovery from armed conflict and a foundation for economic activities and development. Safe Ground promotes community recovery from armed conflict and the development of sustainable development goals by removing explosives hazards and promotion of sports and assistance to survivors of explosives.