Fourteen years ago the UN declared April 4 as International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.
It called for continued efforts by nations with assistance from the UN and relevant organisations to foster the establishment and development of national mine action capacities in countries where mines and explosive remnants of war constitute a serious threat to the safety, health and lives of the civilian population, or an impediment to social and economic development at the national and local levels.
The day came four years after the world body established the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS). The service was – and still is – driven by the needs of people affected by mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and is tailored to the threat of explosive hazards faced by civilians, peacekeepers and those who supply and deliver humanitarian aid.
In South Africa, Denel Group company Mechem has been active in demining operations since the early 90s. In addition to clearing large tracts of land in Mozambique of anti-personnel mines, Mechem expertise has also been put to good use in other African countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and as far afield as Croatia, Bosnia and northern Iraq.
Mechem provides what it terms explosive remnants of war (ERW) clearance solutions as well as specialised canine products and services, mine protected vehicles, ancillary equipment, related skills development and field facility services (FFS).
UNMAS works to save lives, facilitate deployment of UN missions and delivery of humanitarian assistance as well as protect civilians and support voluntary return of internally displaced and refugees. Its actions also enable humanitarian and recovery activities.
Еach year UNMAS organises a multimedia exhibition at UN headquarters in New York to raise awareness of threats posed by mines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices.
This year will see UNMAS unveil a photo exhibition featuring the “Safe Ground” campaign, which promotes the linkage between mine action, sport and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Showing how replacing minefields with playing fields brings communities together and raises awareness about victims and survivors of armed conflict is the theme of the exhibition.
Mine action programmes in a number of countries will see Safe Ground events, including in Palestine, Cyprus, Somalia, Iraq as well as South Sudan, Lebanon and Colombia among others.