Clearing mines in hard-to-reach areas

Report
from Handicap International - Humanity & Inclusion
Published on 30 Oct 2019 View Original

Since 2011, Humanity & Inclusion’s team has cleared 7.5 million square feet of land in Lebanon, the equivalent of 130 soccer fields. In the last two years alone—2017 & 2018—our mine clearance experts found and destroyed 4,500 explosive devices.

Ending a persistent threat

Humanity & Inclusion’s four demining teams are currently clearing fields in the district of Bsharri, which was contaminated by anti-personnel mines in the 1980s. The mined areas are very close to several villages. Accidents just after the civil war, in the 1990s, made a lasting impression on the local population. Since then, Humanity & Inclusion has taught locals how to spot, avoid and report the explosive remnants of war they may come across, and have set up warning signs.

Adapting to the terrain

Depending on the season, Humanity & Inclusion’s mine clearance experts operate in different types of terrain. In the summer months, they work at high altitude, and in winter, when it starts to snow, they return to the lower ground. Sometimes the land is hard to get to and the mine clearance experts have to build a makeshift staircase with sandbags to access certain areas. Heavy rain makes the slopes slippery and sometimes prevents teams from working.

Hard-to-find and different types of mines

The mines in Bsharri are old and buried in thick undergrowth. Mine clearance experts use metal detectors to locate them. When they find one, rather than move it, the team leader detonates it on the spot. Other mines are plastic, rendering them undetectable. To find them, mine clearance experts probe large swathes of land.

Restoring land

Humanity & Inclusion stays in close contact with the people who live close to the minefields. It is essential to update them on operations, particularly if they own land cleared of mines. It is also vital to warn local shepherds, who are among the most frequent casualties.

After the civil war, many villagers had to sell their mined land and leave the region. Some abandoned their land all together. Since the start of the clearance operations, 30,000 villagers have returned. Today, 76% of owners have rebuilt their homes or started growing olives, pears, and grapes again.

Thanks to support from Humanity & Inclusion donors and the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, communities in Lebanon can return to their homes and live in safety.

Humanity & Inclusion in Lebanon

Humanity & Inclusion began working in Lebanon in 1992, supporting local associations with rehabilitation and psychosocial support projects. Since 2011, our mine action teams have been clearing landmines and other explosive remnants of war left from previous conflicts. In the summer of 2012, we began supplying relief to Syrian refugees in Lebanon with a special emphasis on helping those with disabilities and serious injuries. Learn more about our work in Lebanon.