The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) today highlighted the achievements realized together in south Lebanon while vowing to continue the dangerous but life-saving undertaking of clearing landmines.
In his remarks at a ceremony marking the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action in the UNIFIL Headquarters in Naqoura, UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander Major General Michael Beary hailed mine action activities conducted jointly with UNMAS and Lebanon Mine Action Center (LMAC).
He added that UNIFIL de-miners to date have cleared over 4,300 square metres of land and safely removed and destroyed 800 anti-personnel mines within its 1,060 square kilometre area of operation (AO) in south Lebanon. He also highlighted the benefits of the mine risk education given to over 1,500 children in the last year, saving lives and increasing the level of engagement between UNIFIL and the people of Lebanon.
“These efforts conducted in partnership with our Lebanese colleagues is a demonstration of our commitment to creating a safer environment for the people of south Lebanon,” said Major General Beary. “Landmines and other explosive remnants of war not only endanger the lives of UNIFIL personnel, but also of local populations throughout the AO.”
He especially praised the work done by UNIFIL’s core de-mining teams from Cambodia and China. “I wish to publicly acknowledge their professionalism and courage as they set about this work,” he said.
Despite progress, the UNIFIL head added, there are approximately 1,000 minefields along the Blue Line. Some of them are located in close proximity to UN positions. He said the “insidious menace of landmines” should be addressed by continuing to work together.
“It is a huge imperative for us to keep working to try an ensure that we make south Lebanon, and other parts of the world safer through the work of UNMAS and in this mission UNIFIL,” he added.
Major General Beary also read out the message of UN Secretary-General António Guterres on this year’s International Mine Awareness Day, which is observed globally under the theme “Advancing Protection, Peace and Development.”
On 8 December 2005, the UN General Assembly declared that 4 April of each year shall be observed as the International Mine Awareness Day, calling on Member States to enhance national mine-action capacities in countries where mines and explosive remnants of war constitute a serious threat.
Addressing today’s ceremony in Naqoura, UNMAS Acting Programme Manager for Lebanon, Sarah Holland, praised the partnership forged in south Lebanon with UNIFIL, LMAC and local community leaders in both clearing landmines and educating the communities.
“As we commemorate Mine Awareness Day, we are proud of the achievements that we have realized together, and bravely acknowledge the task that lies before us,” she said. “Today, let us recommit ourselves to striving for peace and stability here in South Lebanon; and for an environment that is free of landmines and other explosive remnants of war.”
At today’s event, UNMAS and UNIFIL de-miners also displayed a simulation of mine clearance activities involving robots and other de-mining equipment.