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UNICEF in Emergencies & Humanitarian Action


© UNICEF/The Silent Shout

Unlike other weapons of war, landmines and unexploded ordnance are unique in that their destructiveness is indiscriminate, and long outlasts the conflicts for which they were used. They endanger generation after generation of civilians, especially children. Years after the battle is fought and over, landmines remain hidden in  fields, forests, roads and footpaths — until someone treads unknowingly and triggers a deadly explosion, or a child finds and plays with an unexploded mortar.  The danger of landmines and unexploded ordnance is exacerbated for children, who are intrigued by their sometimes colourful and curious designs. Butterfly mines and cluster bombs hold a fatal attraction for many young children. 

The ground exploded around me.  For a long time, I hoped my leg would grow back.” — Chan, aged 15, Cambodia

Landmines and unexploded ordnance violate nearly all the articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC): a child’s right to life, to a safe environment in which to play, to health, clean water, sanitary conditions and adequate education. Furthermore, un-cleared landmines and ordnance severely disrupt economic activity. They prevent access to reconstruct homes, roads, schools, health facilities and other essential services; they deny access to farmland and irrigation, leading to increased food insecurity.

UNICEF’s activities in mine action are primarily focused in three areas: Mine Risk Education (MRE), which aims to make people aware of the threat and enable them to live more safely with the threat; advocacy to stigmatise the use of landmines and clear other explosive remnants of war; and assistance and support for children and others injured in blasts. UNICEF’s role is to work with partners to ensure that MRE needs are met in an appropriate, effective and timely fashion, that the Mine Ban Treaty and related legal instruments are universally ratified and implemented, and that mine survivors, especially children, have access to comprehensive support services.
As most mine casualties occur during or immediately after conflict, in emergencies where national authorities do not exist or are unable to respond, UNICEF acts directly to identify at-risk populations, carry out emergency Mine Risk Education, and support other risk reduction activities. Wherever possible UNICEF works to build the capacity of its partners, seeking to ensure that initial mine action responses and life-saving assistance move rapidly toward medium- and long-term solutions. This is done with an emphasis on community participation.

At present UNICEF is undertaking mine action in 30 mine affected countries world-wide, coordinating a variety of programmes focused on Mine Risk Education, advocacy and survivor assistance.  These countries and regions: Afghanistan, Albania, Angola,  Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burundi, Cambodia, Chad, Colombia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Laos, Lebanon, Mauritania, Nicaragua, North Caucasus (Ingushetia/Chechnya), Occupied Palestinian Territories, Panama, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Golan Heights (Syria) and Vietnam.  

ISimply being a child, with a natural curiosity and desire to play, touch, seek and explore, is risky in an environment contaminated with explosive remnants of war.  n 2001, UNICEF established a ‘Flying Team’ for mine action support. The Flying Team is composed of consultants with substantial experience in mine action and related fields in a variety of country contexts. Flying Team consultants are on call to provide technical support, including emergency response, programme start-up, needs assessments, technical training and programme design, to UNICEF country teams that request assistance.  These consultants can be deployed for short periods (3- 6 months) on short notice in emergencies, and in support of national and UN led mine action programmes worldwide. This has helped UNICEF respond to emergency Mine Risk Education needs; conduct needs assessment; plan, design and implement new programmes; and improve existing ones through monitoring and review, training and other capacity building activities.  In its first two years Flying Team personnel have been deployed in 11 countries and regions of the world including Afghanistan, Angola, Bosnia, Burundi, Cambodia, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Macedonia, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Sri  Lanka.

Also in 2001, UNICEF, with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), established the Mine Risk Education Working Group (MREWG).  This group comprises representatives from not-for-profit organisations engaged in Mine Risk Education. It brings together MRE practitioners, especially those working in the field, in order to coordinate activities, share lessons learned, and identify ways to meet field support needs.  The MREWG meets approximately three times per year, usually in conjunction with intersessional and annual meetings of States parties to the Mine Ban Treaty. Working Group members oversee and participate in global projects and in the development of MRE training. In addition to providing a forum where practitioners can learn from each other, the MREWG offers more formal training and educational opportunities, as requested by its members.

UNICEF is the UN focal point for Mine Risk Education. In this capacity the organisation works to develop standards and promote best practice. At present, UNICEF is working with partners, in particular NGOs and other MRE practitioners, to develop the MRE components of the International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) and a user-friendly implementation manual.  We are also working in collaboration with the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) to define the MRE requirements for the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA).

In 2002 UNICEF developed a strategy to ensure that its responsibilities and commitments are met under the UN Mine Action Policy, the UN Mine Action Strategy 2001-2005, its own mandates and mission statement, and its Core Corporate Commitments in Emergencies.  The UNICEF Mine Action Strategy clarifies, within UNICEF and to its partners, exactly what UNICEF can and will do in terms of mine action, particularly in Mine Risk Education, advocacy and survival assistance.

Related documents

Mine Action and Effective Coordination:  The United Nations Inter-Agency Policy
This document defines the vision and core commitments of United Nations mine action; outlines the legal framework within which United Nations mine action takes place; elaborates the common positions that derive from the vision and core commitments; and describes the coordination mechanisms, and individual roles and responsibilities of United Nations actors in mine action.
Mine Action and Effective Coordination:  The United Nations Inter-Agency Policy            

UN Inter-agency Mine Action Strategy: 2006-2010
The UN Inter-Agency Mine Action Strategy for 2006-2010 outlines the strategic objectives, activities and indicators for UN mine action.
UN Inter-agency Mine Action Strategy: 2006-2010 [pdf]

International Mine Action Standards for Mine Risk Education:  Best practice guidebooks
The primary aim of these Guidebooks is to provide advice, tools and guidance to undertake mine risk education programmes that are compliant with International Mine Action Standards. They are also intended to provide a framework for a more predictable, systematic and integrated approach to mine risk education. They will be useful to anyone engaged in planning, managing, funding or evaluating mine risk education programmes and projects.
International Mine Action Standards for Mine Risk Education:  Best practice guidebooks    

United Nations Gender Guidelines for Mine Action Programmes 
The United Nations Guidelines for Mine Action Programmes are intended to help United Nations mine action policy makers and field personnel incorporate gender per- spectives in all relevant mine action initiatives and operations.
United Nations Gender Guidelines for Mine Action Programmes 

"Neither War nor Peace"
Neither War nor Peace is the first international study on children in armed groups in countries that are not involved in conflict.
"Neither War nor Peace"

Related links

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EMINE - UN Mine Action Service
The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) was formed in October 1997 to serve as the UN focal point for overall mine action. UNMAS manages one of the main internet based mine action information networks, known as Emine.
[Web page]

International Committee of the Red Cross - ICRC
The International Red Cross is active around the world, bringing relief to casualties of landmines and unexploded ordnance, preventing accidents through mine risk education programmes, and providing lasting and committed efforts to universalise the ban on antipersonnel landmines.
[Web page]

International Campaign to Ban Landmines - ICBL
The ICBL is comprised of a network of over 1,100 groups in over 60 countries, who work to ban the use, production, stockpiling, and sale, transfer, or export of antipersonnel landmines; the signing, ratification, implementation, and monitoring of the mine ban treaty; increased resources for humanitarian demining and mine awareness programs; and increased resources for landmine victim rehabilitation and assistance. 
[Web page]

Handicap International - HI
As a co-founder of the International Campaign to Ban Anti-personnel Landmines, and with many mine action programmes throughout the world, Handicap International is a significant Non Governmental actor in the fight against landmines and unexploded ordnance, and the provision of assistance to casualties.
[Web page]

Mines Advisory Group - MAG
'MAG is an international not-for-profit Non-Governmental Organisation that assists people affected by landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO - bombs, mortars, grenades). MAG clears and destroys the landmines and left-over weapons that make areas unsafe after war.'
[Web page]

Cambodian Mine Action Centre - CMAC
The Cambodian Mine Action Centre is the main mine action service provider in Cambodia, and an example of the many Mine Action Centres operating around the world.
[Web page]

Mine Action Information Center - James Madison University
‘The Mine Action Information Centre was established at James Madison University (JMU) as a Centre of Excellence with a mandate to collect, process, analyse and disseminate information relevant to humanitarian mine action.’
[Web page]

Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining
‘The Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining supports Humanitarian Mine Action through operational assistance, research, and support to the implementation of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. It is an independent Foundation supported by 18 governments.’
[Web page]

Information Management Systems for Mine Action - IMSMA
'IMSMA is an information management system that improves capabilities for decision-making, coordination, and information policy related to humanitarian Mine action.'
[Web page]



Unexploded ordnance (UXO)

Explosive ordnance that has been primed, fuzed, armed or otherwise prepared for use or used.  It may have been fired, dropped, launched or projected yet remains unexploded either through malfunction or design or for any other reason. See the International Mine Action Standards.

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Mine action

Mine action is about people and societies, and how they are affected by landmine and UXO contamination. The objective of mine action is to identify and reduce the impact and risk of landmines and UXO to a level where people can live safely; in which economic, social and health development can occur free from the constraints imposed by landmine contamination, and in which the needs of victims can be addressed. Mine action comprises five complementary groups of activities:

1) mine risk education;
2) humanitarian demining, ie. mine and UXO survey, mapping, marking and (if necessary) clearance;
3) victim assistance, including rehabilitation and reintegration;
4) stockpile destruction; and
5) advocacy against the use of anti-personnel mines. See the International Mine Action Standards.

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UNICEF mine action

  • Supporting Mine Risk Education in 30 countries
  • Supporting Victim Assistance in 11 countries
  • Supporting advocacy initiatives globally and nationally
  • Landmines

    Munitions designed to be placed under, on or near the ground or other surface area and to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person or a vehicle. See the Mine Ban Treaty.

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    UNICEF report highlights stronger determination to tackle landmine problem in East Asia and Pacific region

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