Threat of munitions removed
16th April 2012, Landmines & cluster munitions
Handicap International intervened in Mauritania to remove the threat posed to the local population by stockpiles of obsolete munitions stored in insecure weapons dumps.
None of the 19 munitions dumps across Mauritania complied with international weapons stockpile standards. They posed a major risk to surrounding populations, together with people working on these sites every day. Four of the munitions dumps were located close to Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania. An explosion in one of them could have had devastating consequences.
Since April 2011, the organisation has provided the local authorities with assistance in destroying obsolete munitions stored in these dumps, which no longer complied with safety standards for this type of equipment.
One year on, we have fulfilled our mission. Handicap International’s teams and the Mauritanian army have neutralised 1,975 tonnes of munitions, the equivalent of 13 million weapons. Each of the 19 weapons dumps have been emptied and destroyed.
“Handicap International’s intervention has removed a threat that loomed over the civilian population as they went about their daily business. Mauritania should serve as an example of how to deal with obsolete munitions, which are still stockpiled in precarious conditions in many countries,” explains Frederic Maio of Handicap International’s mine action team.
In fact, although the threat of an accident has now been removed in Mauritania, in many developing countries, weapons dumps are often located in densely populated urban areas. These stockpiles of obsolete weapons, which can often no longer be used, present a potential danger if they explode.
The explosion of a weapons dump in Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo in March 2012, which killed 250 people and injured 3,000, offers a tragic example of what can happen. The Congolese capital was severely contaminated by the explosion: munitions and grenades were scattered over a radius of several miles in a densely populated civilian area. In response to this emergency, Handicap International immediately dispatched its teams to the area. Since the beginning of March, 400 large-calibre munitions have been destroyed and almost 12,000 sq.m. of inhabited areas have been checked and secured.