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Awareness campaign aims to reduce danger from unexploded ordnance in eastern Chad

© UNICEF Chad/2009/Walther
In Goz Beida, Chad, a scheduled explosion destroys explosive remnants of war.

GOZ BEIDA, Chad, 26 June 2009 – The Day of the African Child celebration in the Dar Sila region of eastern Chad started with a controlled explosion on 16 June.

That's when the Mine Advisory Group, one of UNICEF's key non-governmental organization partners in eliminating the explosive remnants of war, destroyed two tonnes of unexploded ordnance (UXO) that had been collected in and around Goz Beida town.

Chad is one of the world's top five countries with the highest prevalence of landmines. The latest round of fighting between the Chadian army and rebel troops, which took place in May 2009, resulted in even more munitions and UXO being scattered around eastern Chad – even inside urban areas and towns.

© UNICEF Chad/2009/Walther
Children and young people gather at a child-friendly space in Gassire, eastern Chad, for a group discussion on the dangers of unexploded ordnance.

'I heard a loud explosion'

Still, children continue to die needlessly. In one incident on 30 May, for example, two boys – Souleymane, 13, and Ibrahima, 14 – found an interesting-looking object in their father's farmyard.

"I remember that I heard a loud explosion not far from our hut, followed by total silence," recalled the boys' father. "The next thing I recall is being in the hospital. Both had lost consciousness, as the pain was too much to bear. The last vision that remains in my head from that day is the doctor telling me that my sons had died."

In response to the tragic deaths of Souleymane and Ibrahima, UNICEF has organized a massive sensitization campaign in the displacement camps and villages around Goz Beida. The campaign aims to further raise public awareness of the danger of UXO.

© UNICEF Chad/2009/Walther
Mariam, a Chadian girl, expresses concern after a sensitization session on landmines, but now she is aware of the danger.

Getting the message out

The overall theme of this year's Day of the African Child was child survival, and UNICEF and its NGO partner INTERSOS arranged activities addressing health, nutrition, education and hygiene. Due the severity of the UXO problem, however, UNICEF Chad decided to include landmine awareness in the agenda as well.

Included in the day's activities were focus group discussions and an art competition that shared a common theme: 'The danger that UXOs present for me and my friends.' The discussions were recorded by the Internews network and will be broadcast – in combination with other mine-risk education messages – on three radio stations in eastern Chad.

UNICEF and its partners already have some reason to believe that the awareness campaign is beginning to work. The day after the Day of the African Child, a boy named Mahmoud, 10, came to the UNICEF office in Goz Beida, and timidly knocked on the door.

"I must show you something!" he said. "There is one of those machines behind our house. Can you please take it away?"



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