|© UNICEF Nepal/2007|
|Lieutenant-Colonel Dhruba Bahadur Khadka educates students about the ‘Don’t Touch Explosive Devices – Save Lives, Save Limbs’ campaign on mine risk awareness.|
By Rupa Joshi
KATHMANDU, Nepal, 11 October 2007 – In August, Lieutenant-Colonel Dhruba Bahadur Khadka took a break from his office at the Mine Action Centre to teach a class at the Basuki Lower Secondary School. He was educating villagers about the dangers of handling improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
“This is a totally different kind of experience,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Khadka, for whom teaching a group of young students was a unique undertaking.
As part of the ‘Don’t Touch Explosive Devices – Save Lives, Save Limbs’ campaign, Lieutenant-Colonel Khadka familiarized those present with how to identify IEDs, explaining that the devices are often simply made from household items such as pressure cookers, pipes and sockets.
"If you see any objects that look like these or if you see things where they should not normally be, don't touch them,” he warned the children. “Go and tell your teacher or the elders at home or in the village, and ask them to get in touch with the authorities."
The campaign, which encourages civilians to report the location of dangerous explosive devices all across the country through a telephone hotline, was initiated by the UNICEF-supported Mine Action Group.
|© UNICEF Nepal/2007|
|Students sit with one of the mine risk awareness posters being distributed as part of a local campaign.|
Using every opportunity
There is also the risk that monsoons could cause explosive devices to 'migrate' during the rainy season. It is because of this risk that Lieutenant-Colonel Khadka was conducting his training.
"We have committed to remove all the explosives we planted during the conflict around the country," said Brigadier General Lok Bahadur Thapa of the Nepal Army. "However, since the task is a time-consuming one, we have to take every opportunity to warn the public."
Earlier, soldiers from the local barracks hung mine awareness posters developed by UNICEF Nepal and its partners in the local school and other shops and buildings; they also distributed brochures.
In a country emerging from a decade-long conflict, mine risk education is an urgent priority. "In 2007, there have been 79 casualties, of which 13 lost their lives," said UNICEF Nepal Mine Action Focal Point Hugues Laurenge. “Nearly half of these casualties involved children.”