2002 AZE: An External Review of the UNICEF-ANAMA Mine Risk Education Project in Azerbaijan
Author: Nelke, C.
ANAMA is the national Mine Action Centre, responsible for all integrated mine action in Azerbaijan. ANAMA cooperates with UN agencies, International NGOs and private demining companies as well as with Azeri Ministries and NGOs regarding impact surveys, mines clearance and Mine Risk Education. In January 2000, UNICEF started a two-year Mine Risk Education (MRE) Project together with ANAMA, after a needs assessment had been carried out. UNICEF finances the MRE project in respect of salaries for two staff members, MRE workshops, monitoring and evaluation and MRE materials. ANAMA provides office space, some staff salaries and, when there is a need, a vehicle for transport. The Mine Risk Education is part of the ANAMA Information Department.
A decision was made that the UNICEF-ANAMA MRE programme should, in its first-phase, target the school teachers (to disseminate MRE among the school children) in the IDP camps and in the border villages with in-depth MRE training and, thereafter, health staff and, last, community volunteers (to disseminate MRE among the community members at large) from the most mine/UXO-contaminated areas. In all, 12 landmine/UXO-contaminated districts and IDP camps were targeted: Fizuly, Beylagan, Agdjabedi, Aghdam, Gedabey, Tovuz, Agstafa, Gazakh, Dashkesan, Khanla, Goranboy, Terter, and Barda (the latter not mine/UXO-affected but having large IDP camps).
The external evaluation consultant was tasked to do a 22-day assignment, including a one-week on-the-job-training for the MRE programme staff, based on the results of the evaluation.
Reading of all relevant documents (Project Proposal, MRE Needs Assessment reports, Training reports, Monthly and Annual reports, Monitoring reports, Mid Term Review Report, Victim Assistant Needs Assessment report, etc.) regarding the MRE project, handed out by ANAMA and UNICEF.
Individual Interviews with the MRE project staff at ANAMA, the UNICEF programme officer in charge of the MRE project, the Chief of the Education Department in the Ministry of Education and the Deputy Minister of Education, the Inspector of the Second Office in the Ministry of Health, the Director of ANAMA, UNDP’s Chief Technical advisor to ANAMA, ANAMA’s Operations Officer, the Head of ANAMA’s Information Department, ANAMA’s Regional Mine Clearance Trainer, the Director of Relief Azerbaijan, Staff from the International Eurasia Press Fund and RONCO (An American organisation, assisting the Dog Training Teams), and the United States Forces MRE training staff to the ANAMA programme.
Group discussions with the MRE instructors (two meetings), the MRE Technical Working Group, the Children’s’ Organisations (The Republic Children Organisation, NUR ("Child-to-Child"), Shafa and "Reliable Future"). In the field, discussions were held with teachers and other school staff, school children, Health staff, Community leaders, IDPs and refugees.
From September 6 to 10, a field trip together with the UNICEF-ANAMA MRE consultant was undertaken to mine affected communities along the border and to IDP camps, where MRE training for school staff, health staff and “volunteers” have taken place. Group discussions were carried out in schools, hospitals and among community members for approximately 1 ½ to 2 hrs. Villages to be visited were chosen so that a minimum of time should be spent on the road.
Findings and Conclusions:
It is commendable that the UNICEF-ANAMA Mine Risk Education Project, during less than two years, has built a good national capacity in their trainings and production of MRE materials as the basis for a strong MRE programme, which always has to be a vital part of an Integrated Mine Action Programme.
The landmine/UXO problem is there to stay for a number of years and that is why it is so important to now consolidate these trainings with good implementation in the mine/UXO-affected communities through the schools, Medical Points, Hospitals and community volunteers to make it sustainable. Mechanisms have to be built for how to best reach out to the communities at large. An active, sustainable community-based MRE programme has to function well until the mines and UXOs are cleared.
A good indicator for the success of the programme is the several cases of reporting by children to the authorities when they have found a "suspicious object".
Other good indicators are the positive attitudes to MRE: everybody interviewed felt it important; those who took part in the training workshops had learnt many things they did not know before the workshop; they now think more actively on how to behave in case they encounter a dangerous mine/UXO situation. They feel more confident.
However, to measure the numbers of victims during the period is a less reliable indicator. We don’t have a valid baseline to measure against and the reporting procedure for the victims is still not reliable.
The sooner the MRE programme starts working on building a stronger relationship with its partners, the better chance for good implementation on the ground. This is where we have the community members at risk and their safety is the ultimate goal for the programme. All people living in these areas, be they children or adults should be entitled to an adequate education on how to avoid the dangers of mines/UXOs, in order to decrease the number of casualties.
There have been reports that the soldiers often become mine/UXO victims and, therefore, it is important to also improve the contact with the army, even if they might be more difficult to reach. MRE should be compulsory in the soldiers' military training.
There are several recommendations in this report on how to consolidate the programme and it is therefore suggested that these recommendations be discussed between UNICEF and ANAMA, and a priority list of measures to take be drawn up.
- A continuation of UNICEF’s support to the MRE project in order to anchor and solidly consolidate MRE in the communities, in strengthened partnership with the line ministries and the NGOs.
- To urge the Ministry of Education to get MRE into the school curriculum. Involvement of the decision-makers at the highest level, both within UNICEF and ANAMA, will be necessary.
- To strengthen the follow-up of the workshops and monitoring of the MRE in the 12 districts, border villages and IDP camps. To encourage the volunteers to form MRE committees. To work out reliable and functional monitoring tools in co-operation with the partners.
- To strengthen the MRE Technical Working Group, with participation also by some of the MRE Instructors and media staff.
- To strengthen the work within the MRE Technical Working Group by offering its members a special MRE workshop, including a field trip to a demining area.
- The MRE Technical Working Group should meet regularly, either monthly or every second month, with a prepared agenda sent out in advance. The partners are also supposed to report back on the MRE work, based on information from their schools, hospitals and community volunteers.
- To organise a special media MRE workshop.
- To produce, in partnership with the State TV channels, MRE sessions built into already existing popular children’s and youth programmes.
- To involve more NGO partners in MRE. Check the interest among the humanitarian development aid organisations that are already involved in community-based projects in the mine/UXO-affected areas and IDP camps.
- To gather the remaining school and health staff in "village cluster" workshops, facilitated by already-trained MRE workshop participants in the districts.
- To strengthen the Children's Organisations' participation in MRE with a Child-to-Child MRE workshop.
- To strengthen the co-operation with the demining organisations and involve them in more comprehensive, community-based MRE training so that MRE becomes a natural component of their Mine Action Work.
- To make sure that the content of the MRE workshops for the different staff within ANAMA and its partners is relevant and tailor-made for their special needs.
- To finalise the billboards and make it the villagers' business to have them raised at a special ceremony in order for the community to claim a sort of ownership and thus feel responsible to secure them for the future!
- To produce MRE games for school children, a new exercise book or just reprint the old one.
- Continue to distribute MRE material on request. Make the partner ministries responsible for checking on needs for more MRE material.
- If funds are available, to provide a car for the MRE programme team.
- To purchase another computer for the MRE programme team.
- To appoint an MRE staff member for the ANAMA Regional Training Centre.
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