Myanmar: Training empowers villagers to tackle unexploded weapons

Mine Risk Education

UNICEF Myanmar
UNICEF Myanmar
UNICEF Partner/2021
20 August 2021

Many people, including children, have been killed or injured in recent months by landmines and unexploded ordnance left behind during the two-year conflict in Rakhine State. People have stepped on ordnance or tripped a wire while passing through a forest or cultivating their land.

Children have played with the bullets that they found – some even tied them together and wore them as necklaces. And some villagers have put the bullets in the fire to remove the lead to use for sinkers on their fishing lines.

In July 2021, UNICEF organized emergency training for people in Rathedaung Township after several unexploded shells were found on farmland nearby.

UNICEF, together with its partners showed the villagers how they can deal safely with any unexploded ordnance they might find. They were advised that any finds must be reported to the village leaders.

The trainers gave local people posters and pamphlets as part of their Explosive Ordnance Risk Education (EORE). And they also set up warning signs about landmines and discarded armaments around the perimeter of the danger zone in the village.

The trainers explained how shells and mines could be carefully and safely fenced off with durable and highly visible plastic ropes, and warning signs could be put up so that both adults and children could understand the danger. Farmers were advised not to cultivate nearby land until bomb disposal experts had arrived.

The training covered the United Nation’s five Pillars of Humanitarian Mine Risk Reduction, effectively delivering the safety messages, and demonstrating how high risk groups – particularly children – could be helped to understand the dangers. 

UNICEF Myanmar
UNICEF Partner/2021
Clear warning sign at a village in Rathedaung

We know now what these things look like, and we know how important it is not to disturb them even if we think they are exploded shells and do not look dangerous.

Invaluable training

At the end of the session, the participants thanked the trainers for their help and asked if a further session could be organized that would involve the whole community.

“We knew nothing about how to deal with this very serious problem,” said one of the participants. “We know now what these things look like, and we know how important it is not to disturb them even if we think they are exploded shells and do not look dangerous. This has been invaluable training.

“We will take these messages to our family and friends, but we would like them all to have the opportunity to participate in this training. Until we saw the pictures, it was hard to be sure what landmines in a field might look like. We particularly need to educate our young people.”

These key messages are very useful and life saving for the local community and it means that they can avoid areas they suspect are contaminated.

But challenges remain, as people have limited access to some areas such as the deep forest and some farmland and are not allowed to fence these locations off or put up warnings.