Libya: our teams on the ground are educating communities about the risks from landmines and unexploded weapons

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Since 11th April, our teams on the ground in Libya have been actively educating local populations at risk from landmines and unexploded ordnance, in order to save lives and prevent serious injuries. Handicap International carried out an evaluation mission in Libya between 15th and 23rd March, which gathered consistent reports on the presence of large numbers of explosive remnants of war (artillery shells and mortars, rockets, missiles, landmines and unexploded grenades). The level of contamination suggests that major demining operations will be necessary at the end of the current hostilities.

In the meantime, lives are at risk. There is an urgent need to disseminate information and educate local populations about the danger posed by unexploded weapons, in order to protect civilians caught up in the conflict.

On Sunday 10th April, three of our experts in the risks posed by unexploded devices arrived in Benghazi, in the north of Libya. They have begun hiring a team of some 10 Libyan staff to run risk prevention activities targeted at communities under threat. Our teams are teaching people to:

identify unexploded devices; understand the risks they run when they come into contact with them; know what to do when faced with these weapons or any unidentified object (i.e. avoid approaching or touching them, mark the danger zone and alert Handicap International’s teams); Children, who are most at risk, are also taught the reflexes that could save their lives. Our teams will work in affected villages on the country’s north coast, from Benghazi to Ras-Lanuf. They will be using an awareness-raising kit consisting of posters and leaflets adapted for use with the different groups that they will be working with: children, teenagers, women and men. Handicap International will also use radio and television spots to broadcast messages about the danger from unexploded weapons to local populations.

Libya is a tragic example that reveals how landmines and other explosive remnants of war still pose a very real threat. Worldwide, landmines and unexploded devices continue to kill or maim one person every two hours. One third of the victims of these weapons are children