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South Sudan, 17 April 2012: Land mine victim determined to achieve his dream despite losing a leg

© UNICEF South Sudan/2012/Uma
Gatluak Kual, a victim of land mine in South Sudan holds a ball during a basket ball match between two teams comprised of victims of land mines. The match was commemorate this year's Mine Action Day, April 4.

By Uma Julius and Swangin Bismarck

“First it was a bullet, which ripped through my arm,” the 29-year old recalls, while showing scars on his left arm. “Later on, I was hit by a landmine which eventually destroyed my right leg.”

JUBA, South Sudan, 17 April 2012 - He dribbles the ball past two opponents and smiles, before passing it to his teammate. To him, disability is not inability and with determination he says one can still achieve his or her future dream.

“I lost my leg at the war front in 1999 while fighting to liberate South Sudan,” Gatluak Kual narrates.

“First it was a bullet, which ripped through my arm,” the 29-year old recalls, while showing scars on his left arm. “Later on, I was hit by a landmine which eventually destroyed my right leg.”

Gatluak’s experience is just one of the several bad memories of the over two decade north-south Sudan civil war which ended in 2005.

This year’s Mines Day, April 4 was marked for the first time in South Sudan since the country gained independence from Sudan, July 9, 2011.

Independence was achieved after the end in 2005 of a two decade war fought mainly between North Sudan and South Sudan in which different types of mines were planted mostly in South Sudan where most of the war was fought.

© UNICEF South Sudan/2012/Swangin
UNICEF Staff in South Sudan gather at the office to lift a leg and raise leg pants and say 'NO TO LANDMINES' to express solidarity with victims of landmines and call for an end to their use.

The South Sudan Mine Action Authority indicates that there were 108 incidences of land mines and unexploded ordinances in 2011 alone some which led to deaths. It also estimates that more than 57,000 devices consisting of anti-personnel, anti-tank and other unexploded ordinances were destroyed by demining authorities in 2011.

It is not known how many mines and unexploded ordnances (UXO) remain in the country’s soil but it is clear that what is there hinders settlement, agriculture and other forms of development by making valuable land areas dangerous.

This year all countries commemorated the Mines Day under the global theme “Lend your leg”.

To express solidarity with victims of landmines and call for an end to use of such deadly weapons, UNICEF Staff in South Sudan on Monday, April 2 gathered at the compound to each lift a leg and loudly say "No to landmines".

Mr. Jurkuch Barach Jurkuch, the Chairperson of Southern Sudan Mine Action Authority (SSMAA) warned of the threat landmines still pose in the region, specifically citing Eastern Equatoria state as the worst affected area.

“We still have a lot of work to be done most especially in relation to creating awareness on the dangers and risk associated with landmines. Our people need to be sensitized on these issues,” Jurkuch said during the Mine awareness day celebrations in Juba One primary school.

The mine action programme currently covers all the 10 South Sudan states, but mainly concentrates on 7 states considered to be worst affected by landmines and unexploded ordnances. These include, Eastern Equatoria, Central Equatoria, Jonglei, Upper Nile, Unity, Western Bahr El Ghazel and Warrap states.

Over the years, United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), which works within the framework of the United Nations Mine Action Office (UNMAO) has coordinated and provided technical support to Mine Risk Education (MRE) in schools and communities throughout South Sudan.

UNICEF’s support includes development of  training materials, promotion of best practices especially in schools as well as supporting the MRE advisory group composed of a small number of ‘expert’ agencies and individuals that provides guidance to the sector and identifies ways to improve effectiveness, efficiency and relevance of MRE within the broader mine action community.

Between 2009 and June 2011, more than 1.3 million (more than 60 percent children) individuals directly received MRE or awareness on landmine risks, through community and school based activities, thereby reaching out to an estimated indirect audience of 2.5 million through mass media campaigns.

With the emergency of dissident groups in some parts of South Sudan, there is a growing fear of more land mines and other explosives being planted. This will draw back the progress that has been made to clear Mines and create awareness among South Sudanese.

 

 
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