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Clearing deadly mines from southern Sudan

© UNICEF Sudan/2004
Children in southern Sudan next to a mine excavation site

YIROL, Sudan, New York, New York,  1 December 2004 – Sudan is one of the ten most landmine-affected countries in the world. A truce in the long-running civil conflict (which is separate from and far predates the crisis in Darfur) has now allowed the United Nations to begin work in southern Sudan, to clear landmines and unexploded ordnance.

Nobody knows precisely how many mines there are in the country, but Sudan’s 21-year civil war has resulted in a tremendously widespread problem with mines and unexploded ordnance. Many towns in southern Sudan suffer from the after-effects of major battles and aerial bombardments. Untold numbers of live bombs, grenades, and shells lie below the surface of fields near homes, putting children and their families at risk for dismemberment or death.

The UN clearance work focuses on removing landmines and unexploded weapons from roads and civilian areas likes schools, clinics and farms. This will allow displaced people to return home, open up routes for business and aid deliveries, and allow the expansion of farm land.

Many of the people who stayed in southern Sudan during the ongoing war know where the mines have been buried. They warn their children to stay away from them and to be watchful for any unexploded bombs or shells in the area. But there are now hundreds of Sudanese who are returning home (with thousands more children, women and men expected to arrive in the coming months), travelling through areas that may be rife with landmines or unexploded ordnance. These people don't know where the mines are.

UNICEF is raising awareness of the threat by dispensing information via leaflets, radio and television broadcasts and education campaigns. UNICEF is also active in the United Nations’ demining efforts.

UNICEF’s activities in mine action have three main components:
1. Mine Risk Education (MRE), which aims to make people aware of threats and enable them to cope with them safely;
2. Advocacy to stigmatize the use of landmines and to promote clearance of mines and unexploded ordnance;
3. Assistance and support for children and others injured in blasts.

UNICEF works 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.

An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people are killed or maimed by landmines every year, according to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Thousands of these victims are children. Landmines and unexploded ordnance violate a great many of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including those that establish a child’s rights to life, to a safe environment in which to play, to health, clean water, sanitary conditions and to an adequate education.




 December 2004: Mine clearance in southern Sudan will save children’s lives

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11 November 2004: Johann Olav Koss speaks out about landmines

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