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SOMALIA: Rising number of child landmine victims in Somaliland

Photo: Mohamed Amin Jibril/IRIN
Saida Mohamed with her child, Habon Ahmed, who was injured in a landmine explosion in January
HARGEISA, 2 February 2011 (IRIN) - Somalia's self-declared independent region of Somaliland has experienced an increase in landmine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) explosions in the recent past, with officials calling for mine awareness education in schools, as children have been the main victims.

"Child victims of land mines have increased in Somaliland in the past two months," Ahmed Ali Maah, director of the Somaliland Mine Action Center (SMAC), told IRIN. "Some 93 children have been killed by landmines in the past three years."

Farhan Abdi Saleban, a child protection officer with Comprehensive Community-Based Rehabilitation in Somaliland (CCBRS), a local NGO, said three children died and five were injured by landmines in January; and two others were injured in December 2010.

"Case fatalities and injuries associated with mine and UXO explosions have lately increased in the country," Saleban said. "A high proportion of the victims are children, according to comparative data/information recorded for the past two months."

Saleban said strategic interventions, including effective continuing mine-risk education and psychological rehabilitation of landmine survivors, were needed.

The latest incident occurred on 27 January in Sheedaha settlement in Hargeisa’s Kodbur District: One child died and two others were injured when a landmine exploded in a playground.

"My son had gone to play football in the evening, as usual. Suddenly I received a phone call telling me my son had been injured following an explosion," said Ibrahim Ahmed, a father of five, whose son Farhan Ibrahim was injured in the chest.


Photo: Mohamed Amin Jibril/IRIN
At least 24 types of anti-personnel mines from 10 different countries have been identified in Somaliland
No minefield records

According to SMAC, landmines were laid in Somaliland over two decades, and during three different conflicts. The first conflict (1964) and the second (1977-78) were between the Somali Democratic Republic and Ethiopia over what is now Ethiopia's Somali Region. The third conflict (1981-91) was when the Somali National Movement waged an armed struggle against the Somali National Army of the then Somali president, Mohamed Siyad Barre.

According to the UN Development Programme (UNDP), 400,000-800,000 landmines were laid in Somaliland between 1988 and 1991 alone.

At least 24 types of anti-personnel mines from 10 different countries have been identified in Somaliland. At least half of the landmines laid in Somaliland are plastic.

No records were kept by those who laid landmines in Somaliland.  Subsequently, several landmine impact surveys were carried out, but many of their findings turned out to be unreliable. SMAC is currently verifying the results of a 2009 survey carried out by the HALO trust.

One of five children injured in an explosion on 20 January had been herding livestock when the explosion occurred.

"I was with my daughter; we were looking after the sheep when a huge explosion erupted where my daughter was. I ran to her but I was too late. Her legs and her hand were cut off and she was bleeding profusely," Saida Mohamed, a mother of seven from south-central Somalia, said.

Civil society organizations and the national demining agency have called for awareness-raising mine education programmes, especially in schools. SMAC mine education officer Hibaq Mujahid Abdikadir Kosar told IRIN mine education programmes should be included in the national curriculum.

See also: IRIN's In-depth: The landmine hangover

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Theme(s): Children, Early Warning, Environment,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]