Bosnia landmine danger: Handicap International launches emergency risk awareness programme
Handicap International is launching an emergency landmine risk awareness programme in Bosnia after recent severe flooding dislodged landmines planted during the Balkans conflict. Along with the programme to raise awareness about the dangers posed by landmines and other explosive weapons, Handicap International will also support the country's Mine Action Centre to draw up new maps of land contaminated by landmines.
Urgent action needed
The flooding that first hit Bosnia on 15th May has caused serious damage in several regions of the country. There have been nearly 3,000 landslides, homes have been devastated and 25 people have been killed. Communities living with the constant presence of floodwaters now face a new danger. Landslides and the flow of surface water have brought antipersonnel mines from the 1992-1995 war up to the surface and in some places mines have been dislodged. The warning signs indicating the location of mine-polluted areas have also been carried away by the floodwater, greatly increasing the chances of accidents.
Limiting the risks
“Action urgently needs to be taken”, says an alarmed Alma Al Osta of Handicap International, who is on the ground in Bosnia, “as areas that until now had been marked as being dangerous are no longer identified as such. Once water levels drop, the population simply does not know what they will find in and around their homes.”
“We deployed an evaluation mission to determine what assistance we could provide”, explains Gilles Delecourt, the Handicap International Mine Action Director. “We are now going to set to work with the aim of limiting the risks incurred by the population.”
Vital risk awareness in five affected regions
In addition to the mine clearance work done, most notably by the military, there is an urgent need to inform and raise the awareness of all those living and working around contaminated areas.
“A Handicap International team already in the country will run awareness raising sessions in partnership with local organisations in order to swiftly reach the populations under the greatest threat.” The organisation will implement the risk education project in the affected municipalities of Zenica, Zepce, Zavidovici, Maglaj and Doboj.
Handicap International is also set to provide the Bosnia and Herzegovina Mine Action Centre (BHMAC) with materials, such as new warning signs to indicate the location of mined areas.
Handicap International has significant experience of working in Bosnia. The organisation worked in the country from 1997 to 2012 to reduce the impact of mines and explosive remnants of war. Teams from Handicap International have delivered both mine clearance and mine risk education work. This work has enabled close to 100,000 people to rebuild the social and economic life in their villages. In 2012, Handicap International withdrew from Bosnia as the authorities were able to complete the mine clearance work themselves.
8,000 people killed by landmines since 1992
Bosnia is the most heavily mined country in Europe. According to official figures, over 120,000 landmines are still scattered across the whole country as a result of fighting during the 1992-1995 war. Since 1992 landmines and other explosive weapons are recorded to have taken around 8,000 lives.