Job opportunities for landmine survivors

The Landmine Survivors Network (LSN) recently signed an agreement with the Jordanian Ministry of Social Development and the vocational training centre, to ensure that landmine survivors in Jordan receive the same employment opportunities as their non-disabled peers.

The agreement was signed at the LSN office in the capital, Amman. It aims to promote the integration of landmine survivors into the Jordanian workforce and marks a significant step for those who have suffered injuries from mines.

"There are few vocational training opportunities for disabled landmine survivors compared to non-disabled peers," director of the LSN, Adnan al-Aboudi, told IRIN.

Under the agreement, both the vocational training centre and the ministry will support the initiative by providing vacancies that are suitable for trained applicants.

Al-Aboudi stressed the importance of rehabilitating and reintegrating landmine survivors fully in all aspects of their lives including health, economic and legal matters. Abboudi is himself an amputee as are all field workers at LSN. He pointed out that the encouragement and availability of equal opportunities to all segments of society is essential and a strategic pillar in the government’s fight against poverty.

He added that opportunities for disabled people are limited because of social obstacles. These, he explained, are twofold. Firstly, access to education is limited and secondly transportation difficulties limit access to both education and training centres. This in turn leads to isolation and poverty.

The majority of landmines in Jordan were planted during the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict by both the Jordanian and Israeli armed forces. Estimates on the number of landmines and minefields vary but according to the Landmine Survivors Rehabilitation Services (LSRS) database, as of April 2000, there were still 371 minefields in Jordan. The number is down from an initial total of 500.

The landmine monitor puts the figure of landmine victims at 505, while the military says the number could be as high as 900. According to the LSRS database, 10 per cent of Jordan's population lives in landmine- affected areas. Although signs and fences mark the minefields, it is difficult to specify the location of the mines with absolute accuracy because rain, flooding and erosion may have shifted their positions over the years.

Meanwhile, LSN uses role models such as Fatehya Abu Zaid Alkeswan to encourage others to try and live a normal life. During conflicts of the 1970s, she was injured by unexploded ordnance (UXO) when she was only three years old, resulting in the loss of her right leg. Against her parents' wishes, she worked up to 10 hours a day to earn enough money to attend university, where she graduated with a degree in business administration and accounting.

She has been given the opportunity to act as a mentor, sharing her experiences of success and struggle as a student, professional, wife, and mother. Other survivors, such as Taha Ziyadeh, lost a leg in 1980 when he unknowingly came across a UXO, which killed his two friends, and left him severely injured. Through LSN, he has been able to establish a small wheelchair repair business.

LSN established an office in Amman in 1999 to work with and support both civilian and military landmine survivors. They also work with people with other disabilities throughout the country.

LSN outreach workers visit survivors in an initiative of the Ministry of Social Development. They offer people peer support and aim to learn more about their needs and provide them with educational material. Since opening the office, some 1,000 survivors in Jordan have been assisted.

The Ministry of Social Development also runs two centres in Jordan that offer vocational training to people with disabilities. They provide courses in sewing, carpentry and cushion making.

Jordan has launched a campaign to destroy domestic stockpiles of mines, to removing mines from the ground and to rehabilitate and reintegrate landmine survivors. The Royal Corps of Engineers is responsible for dismantling mines and to date, has dismantled approximately 83,000 mines.

More than two-thirds of the world's nations have been active in resolving the landmine problem through the Ottawa Treaty. Jordan signed the treaty in 1998 and began work in May 1999, aiming to destroy all stockpiles within four years of the agreement to become landmine free by 2010.