More resources needed for mine action, urges UN

More effort and resources are necessary to eliminate landmines in Somalia, Sudan and Uganda, where years of conflict have left thousands of people maimed or killed by the explosive devices, the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) said.

"We cannot over-emphasise the primacy of mine action to humanitarian, development and reconstruction activities," Maxwell Gaylard, UN Somalia resident and humanitarian coordinator and director-designate of UNMAS, said on Thursday.

In its 2006 portfolio of projects, UNMAS said the problem of land mines in Somalia had existed for 30 years, affecting some 1.34 million people.

"The laying and use of landmines throughout Somalia has been a strategy employed by warring factions, and according to some reports, mines are still being laid in southern Somalia. [Also] large amounts of unexploded ordnance exist countrywide," UNMAS said.

It said progress had been made in the elimination of mines in the semi-autonomous northern regions of Somaliland and Puntland, but southcentral Somalia had lagged behind due to its fragile political and security situation.

UNMAS requested US $5.5 million for mine action in Somalia.

In Sudan, which was embroiled in internal conflict for more than two decades, mines could have affected 21 of the country’s 26 states. The number of landmine casualties over the past five years totals 1,800.

"Mine and unexploded ordnance contamination continues to maim and kill people, obstruct the delivery of humanitarian aid and hinder reconstruction, development and peace building of the country," UNMAS said.

It noted that the peace agreement signed in January between the northern government and southern rebels, and the establishment of the UN Mission in Sudan, had brought a new dimension to the programme. The agreement stipulates that a new mine action structure be established.

The agency appealed for $76.5 million for projects in Sudan during 2006.

In Uganda, where government troops and rebels have engaged in a brutal war in the north for about two decades, landmines and explosive remnants of war were a major impediment to the return of some 1.4 million internally displaced people in the region.

"Landmines destroy lives, hinder infrastructure development and block access to critical resources including water and grazing land," UNMAS said.

Some $3.4 million is required to achieve the UNMAS's 2006 objectives in Uganda.

Globally, landmines kill or injure between 15,000 and 20,000 people every year. They hinder access to critical services, use of roads, airstrips and other infrastructure, according to the mine service.

Planned projects include clearing, marking or fencing off mined areas, assisting victims and their families, providing mine risk education, destroying stockpiles of landmines and advocating for universal participation in treaties related to landmines.