ROSELINE NZELLE NKWELLE BENTIU - “I have learned to be mindful of objects, no matter how familiar they look,” said Nyedel Tap Hoth a pupil of Naath Primary School in the Internally Displaced Person’s camp in Bentiu.
Nydel was speaking after a 45-minute awareness raising session conducted by the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) for students of the school. “In fact, from now on, I will never pick up any object I find in the ground,” she added.
This risk education could not have come at a better time, given the massive movement of communities as Unity state faces the worst flooding it has witnessed in 60 years.
“The community must be made aware that explosive remnants of war are still being detected in Unity state and of the potential threat they pose to human lives,” declared Sikulisiwe Gwara, Field Coordinator for UNMAS in Bentiu.
“The objective of this exercise is to reduce the risk to a level where people can live safely in an environment which is free from the constraints imposed unexploded ordnance and in which economic and social development can occur,” she explained.
It was a very interactive session as participating students showed keen interest and curiosity and asked numerous questions.
Personnel facilitating the session used a host of tools including photographs, detailed explanations and simulation exercises to coach pupils on how to identify mines and other dangerous explosive remnants of war; the potential impact of these objects as well as what to do if they spot any suspicious items.
“These objects are manufactured to destroy and kill. Some of them are disguised to look like familiar objects that people use in their homes,” explained Nyaka Florence John, a Community Liaison Officer with Safe Lane Global Community, while speaking to students. “So do not touch any object lying on the ground even if it looks like your mother’s cooking pot. Stay well away and call any adults nearby to inform us,” she cautioned.
“This training is critical for protecting civilians, especially children” adds Ms. Gwara. “People, particularly children, face the risk of being disabled for the rest of their lives by landmines and we have to make all efforts to ensure this is prevented,” she continued.
The session was delivered to children because they are a channel to pass information not only to their parents but also the rest of the community.
“Children are not naturally afraid of anything and often see everything as a toy they can play with,” said Gatyang Stephen Bol, Deputy School Officer at Naath Primary School. “I am very happy, therefore, that UNMAS has provided this important lesson to pupils of our school. I believe they will trickle down their learning to other people in the community and, most importantly, keep themselves safe from harm.”