South Sudan

Floods hampering UNMAS demining work in Jonglei State’s Pigi County

INES SURWUMWE

Residents in Pigi County, on the Jonglei State side of the river border with Upper Nile State, need to tread carefully. Floods mean that the recommendation by the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) to relocate cannot be followed.

“We hope that the demining team will eventually be able to act quickly and effectively because our people are living in fear, and because of the floods there is nowhere nearby, close to the important river, where we can move, as was the suggestion made by the experts,” County Commissioner Nyok Maluar told a river patrol team from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.

Like in numerous other areas of South Sudan, landmines are still present in Pigi County, especially along the river forming the border with Upper Nile State.

“We don’t know exactly when the mines were placed here, but we believe it may have been in 1998 or 1999. That means they have been here, endangering our daily lives, for more than 20 years now,” said the County Commissioner.

In October 2021, a demining team assessed the situation in this part of the county and educated the population on how to minimize risks involved in living in a contaminated area.

“There are known minefields in Pigi County. Two anti-personnel mines were reported in a residential area. The team found and safely disposed of the items and informed the population and the authorities. We also gave them instructions on how to avoid being hurt by the mines,” said Hillary Lado, an UNMAS implementing partner.

“Water and mud cover the zone where we need to operate. We must wait for the water to evaporate before we can act.”

The size of this particular minefield is currently estimated to be 9,684 sqare metres, which in practice and through standard clearance processes usually means that some 40,000 square metres will need to be worked on.

“In this location there are several other minefields totalling thousands of square metres that we have to clear to ensure the safety of communities living here,” added Hillary Lado.

Yet she thinks Pigi County residents have reason to be optimistic.

“We are confident that we will soon be able to coordinate with the relevant authorities, get to work and help the population here return to life as it used to be.”