Call to action for demining to save lives and livelihoods
Aid agencies are calling on donors to provide more resources to support Mine Action in Yemen, and engaging with authorities to help address challenges in importing specialized equipment such as mine detectors, protective equipment and vehicles into the country. High-level advocacy on behalf of the sector is needed to overcome bureaucratic obstacles, which continue to inhibit the access and work of Mine Action partners to protect people from indiscriminate harm.
Due to the legacy and current conflicts in Yemen, landmines, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) continue to kill and maim civilians and pose major protection risks to aid workers and civilians alike. Since 2018, landmines, IEDs and unexploded ordnance have killed or injured at least 1,424 civilians in Yemen, many of them children. Indeed, on 13 September 2021, one explosion in Ta’iz Governorate caused 19 casualties, 15 of whom were children.
In addition to causing direct and deadly harm, these explosive weapons and remnants instill terror in the communities exposed to them, with deeply negative impacts on life, livelihood and the wider economy. Many farms and fishing communities in Yemen stand idle due to the physical and psychological impact of mines and ERW on land and at sea. This presents a major hurdle to domestic food production and income generation when Yemen is already facing dire levels of food insecurity and poverty.
At the UN Security Council Briefing on 10 September 2021, OCHA’s Deputy Director, Ghada Eltahir Mudawi, urged “all parties to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law, including by refraining from using weapons which are by nature indiscriminate, and by taking constant care to spare civilians and civilian objects throughout their military operations.” She also called for practical steps to be taken to scale up humanitarian mine and ERW clearance activities and support for it – including by permitting and expediting the passage of demining equipment into the country – as this would go a long way towards protecting civilians.
Despite limited funding and bureaucratic challenges, aid agencies are scaling up Mine Action activities to improve the safety of civilians. Mine Action partners are focused on preventing risks and casualties in highly impacted communities by ensuring that mine and ERW contamination is mapped and that their impact is assessed and prioritized, in order to clear critical infrastructure and public service facilities such as schools, roads, hospitals and farmland.
Awareness campaigns on threats posed by mines and ERW have been stepped up, while survivors of explosions are supported and rehabilitated socioeconomically. Between January and August 2021, Mine Action partners surveyed or cleared 2.1 million square meters of land, benefitting more than 1.7 million people, and removed 403 IEDs, 4,095 mines, and 31,173 items of unexploded ordnance.
The increased presence of Mine Action partners supporting authorities to survey, clear and raise awareness is helping to expand coverage, raise skills and develop a sustainable capacity for the people of Yemen, regardless of age and gender. In the first half of the year, 56 deminers received explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) training, with 60 others being trained specifically on how to deal with IEDs. Developing national capacity has included training women in culturally appropriate technical skills including explosive ordnance risk education (EORE) and surveying, allowing Mine Action activities to benefit all parts of Yemeni society. An assessment was also conducted on the threat posed by sea mines to shipping, food security and livelihood along the Red Sea coast.
Read more about Ahmed’s story and others here