Intersos mine action unit update
INTERSOS involvment in demining activities raised from our experience in humanitarian operations in post-war contexts where we faced a large number of mine casualties and severe constraints to the restart of socio-economic life, due to mine pollution. This was the case in Bosnia, where house rehabilitation projects we were implementing were hampered by mine presence, both in rural and in urban areas.
Therefore, INTERSOS decided to directly take part in the Mine Action efforts of the international community. For this purpose, the INTERSOS Mine Action Unit (MAU) was established on a permanent base. The MAU operates in all the MINE ACTION sub-sectors such as Mine Awareness, Mine Clearance, Victim Assistance and Advocacy.
The MAU has so far implemented demining actions in Bosnia, Kosovo and Angola. The Unit is accredited by the MACs in the countries of operation and operates according to the operative and safety standard internationally agreed.
The MAU holds its own training course - including both humanitarian and technical aspects - for international and local personnel in the countries of operation.
In Bosnia, the MAU implemented a number of mine clearance actions in Sarajevo and Tuzla Cantons in connection with return and reconstruction projects of houses and public service facilities (schools, health services and markets). Funds were provided by the E Commission, the Italian Government, Italian Local Councils, Italian Trade Unions as well as by INTERSOS fund raising from private donors.
In Angola, experts of the INTERSOS MAU participated in 1997/98 to the White Helmets/UNDP Demining Project for the Cuando Cubango Province as Technical Supervisor of an INAROEE Demining Brigade.
In November 1999 an 18 months demining Project in the Huila Province was started, with the aim to support the return of IDPs. The project is financed by the European Union and the Italian Government and has a total value of 1,7 MEURO. In December 2000 the MAU was charged by the Italian Cooperation with a new battle area clearance intervention in the city of Menongue - Cunado Cubango Province.
In Kosovo a large demining program, is under implementation to support the consolidation of peace and the full restart of economic and social activities. Activities started in June 1999 and with funding by ECHO and the Italian special fund for Kosovo named "Missione Arcobaleno". Within MACC coordination, INTERSOS activity has been focused on the clearing of houses and public service buildings in the Pec district. Tasks have progressively been enlarged to minefields clearing, employing local personnel specifically trained by INTERSOS.
More recently, the MAU has also been charged by the Pristina UNMACC of a clearance project - funded by ITF (International Trust Fund for Demining and Victims Assistance in Bosnia and Herzegovina) - specifically targeted to cluster bomb units (CBU) clearance.
The project includes identification of cluster munitions contaminated areas, area reduction, Level 2 Surveys and clearance operations. CBU constitue the first cause of injuries for civilian in the Province since the end of the NATO operation.
Mine Awareness is a key instruments in all INTERSOS project as a preventive measure to decrease the number of mine casualties. A wide range of actions are implemented at field level, in accordance with UNICEF guidelines, including information session in schools, refugee camps, community centers, as well as TV and radio broadcasting, leaflet and poster distribution, etc.
In Bosnia, jointly with the demining operations, INTERSOS made use as Mine Awareness tool of "anti-mine T-shirts", i.e. T-shirt with mines and ordnance drawings, showing a warning message for children in local language. T-shirts were produced and distributed to schools in Sarajevo, both on Federal and Serb side, with funding from the Canadian embassy, ECHO, and Italian private funds.
Also in Kosovo, INTERSOS has undertaken mine awareness in direct connection with the clearance operations: 6 local operators have been trained, according with UNICEF Guidelines, and employed for information sessions to the families of the houses under clearance, in schools and social centers.
In Angola INTERSOS is implementing a Project supporting a Center for prosthetic and rehabilitation of landmine victims in the Cuando Cubango Province. This area is heavily affected by fighting and landmine pollution and the Center is the only resource for mine victims in the Province. The project include the training of local personnel for the rehabilitation activities and prostheses production. Specific attention is paid to the social and economic reinsertion of the disabled, through vocational training.
A specific action in support of the Surgical Department of the Provincial Hospital in Menongue was also started to face the emergency surgical interventions and also as support to the prosthetic Center in stump preparation.
INTERSOS is a member of the Board of Direction of the Italian Campaign to Ban Landmines, the national Section of the Nobel Prize Winner International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Together with the Italian Campaign, supported the approval of the Italian law n.374/97 against use and proliferation of landmines as well as the law n.106/99 for the ratification by the Italian Government of the Ottawa Treaty. INTERSOS MAU actively participated in the years 1999 and 2000 Land Mine Monitor Researches
INTERSOS, the Italian Campaign and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs promoted the constitution of a "National Committee for Mine Action", gathering governmental and non governmental actors involved in Mine Action.
Mr S. Calabretta, Mine Action Unit Co-ordinator