Guinea Bissau: mines and unexploded remnants of war continue to kill, mostly children
Bissau, Guinea-Bissau, 10 June 2009 - In the afternoon of the 29th of April 2009, a bomb exploded in the village of Djendo, in the northern region of Oyo, killing two children and injuring 2 women and 6 other children – one of them a six months old baby.
The little crowd had gathered under a big tree to make palm oil. The bomb, which was buried in the ground, exploded when two children started a fire nearby to roast some cashew nuts.
The accident happened only a few weeks after two boys from a village near Xime, in the central Bafata region, were killed while playing with a hand grenade found in a field being prepared for planting.
“Guinea Bissau suffers from a severe, although forgotten, emergency: mines and explosive remnants of war continue to kill and maim mostly children and women. The recent accidents have been a bitter wake-up call, reminding all actors that it is imperative and urgent to revive the needed international support on this issue, in order to stop once for ever this avoidable horror”, declared the UNICEF Representative in Guinea Bissau, Silvia Luciani.
Since January 2009, already 4 children have been killed. In addition, 6 children, 4 women and 1 man have been severely injured. “The continuing presence of landmines and explosive remnants of war grossly violates the rights of children to a safe environment in which to play and develop the rights to health and physical integrity. It is unacceptable that so many years since the end of the liberation war and the 1998-99 conflict, mines and other explosive devices still kill and maim in Guinea Bissau”, completed Luciani.
UNICEF is supporting CAAMI (the national coordinating body for Mine Action) on educational activities to prevent accidents. Currently, UNICEF is also providing technical support on the revision of the Mine Risk Education Strategy, as well as on the training of mine education activists and production of communication materials, with the objective of strengthening accidents preventions.
The activists involved in Mine Risk Education are school teachers, women and youth associations’ members, community radio journalists, health workers, religious and community leaders. They often work on a purely voluntary basis, motivated by their commitment to help their communities. Once trained, these activists educate adults and children in affected areas, ensuring that they are aware of the locations of contaminated areas, that these areas are marked, and that both adults and children avoid these areas.
Despite the high number of accidents still occurring in Guinea Bissau, in recent years the international support has been dwindling, and it is increasingly difficult to mobilize funds to carry out both demining and mine risk education activities.
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