BENGHAZI, Libya, 8 July 2011 - As the crisis in Libya drags into its fifth month, children are at increasing risk of exposure to mines and explosive remnants of war (ERWs). This risk has been compounded by the surge in availability of small arms and light weapons throughout much of the country. In response, Handicap International and UNICEF have partnered to raise awareness among children and families of the dangers posed by these weapons through a multi-faceted education program.
The UN and NGOs, working through the Joint Mine Action Coordination Team (JMACT), have confirmed the presence of explosive remnants of war (ERWs) and large caches of small arms in a number of heavily populated areas of Libya including Ajdabiya, Misrata and parts of the Nafusa Mountains region in the west of the country. Consequently, the awareness campaign is targeting the general population and displaced families in and around Benghazi, Misrata and Ajdabiya, with plans to expand to other communities as humanitarian access allows.
Some areas still under heavy conflict or government control have not yet been assessed for contamination, but attempts are being made to secure access to these sites.
Direct sessions with trained volunteers promoting risk awareness and education sessions for children are already underway in IDP camps in areas of eastern Libya including Ajdabiya, Benghazi and Misrata. The workshops feature games that actively engage children in a learning process that is both educational and fun.
More than 30,000 informational leaflets have also been distributed to IDP communities in the Benghazi, Ajdabiya, Misrata, Brega and Tunisian border areas thus far, and mosques, local radio stations and civil society groups are also disseminating program safety messages in their local communities.
“We have a dedicated team of workshop trainers and volunteers who are working hard to keep the children of Libya safe from exposure to these dangerous weapons,” said Solene Blanchere, Risk Education Project Manager for Handicap International. “The program has received a very warm reception from the communities in which we have worked so far, and we look forward to expanding it to other areas of the country as soon as possible.”
“Children in many areas of Libya are at significant risk from exposure to ERWs and small arms, and sadly, some have already lost their lives,” said UNICEF Libya Response Team Leader Pierre Poupard. “When they come across these weapons, children have been known to collect them as trophies or for scrap metal, putting their lives in grave danger. This program is essential for giving children and communities the lifesaving tools and awareness they need to minimize the risk and stay safe.”
The newly launched program will run until the end of November 2011 with the goal of reaching more than 500,000 people in eastern and western Libya through radio and television public service announcements, as well as community awareness sessions explaining the risks associated with exposure to these weapons. Continued support from the donor community is needed from the international community, however, as the program expands into areas currently under conflict.
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org
About Handicap International
Handicap International is an independent international aid organisation working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. Working alongside people with disabilities and vulnerable populations, Handicap International takes action and raises awareness in order to respond to their essential needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights.
Since its creation in 1982, Handicap International has put in place development programmes in over 60 countries, and intervened in numerous emergency situations. The network of 8 national associations (Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, UK and U.S.A.) work together to raise funds, manage projects and spread the principles and actions of the organisation. As one of the six founding organisations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), Handicap International is co-laureate of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize. The organisation is also laureate of the 2011 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize.
For more information, please contact:
Solene Blanchere, Handicap International
Tel: +218 (0)92.27.05.593
Marixie Mercado, UNICEF
Tel: +41 (0)79.756.7703
Christopher Tidey, UNICEF
Tel: +218 (0)18.104.22.1689
Communities band together to reopen schools
Emergency water distribution under way
Families face new dangers in Tunisian camp