4 April 2011 – Landmine victims voiced a need for support, social acceptance and mine awareness raising at the International Day for Mines Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action celebrations in Juba and Khartoum.
The UN Mine Action Office (UNMAO), UNMIS and partners, including the National Mine Action Authority and South Sudan Demining Commission (SSDC), marked the day with marching bands and speeches drawing attention to achievements and work needing further effort.
Speaking to the gathering at John Garang Mausoleum in Juba, Chairperson of South Sudan War Disabled, Widows, and Orphan Commission Ben Ruben Oduho said that mines were a reminder of war that needed to be fought.
"Today the war of arms is over but we are still grappling with the war against landmines and Unexploded Ordnances," Mr. Oduho said, adding that the task of clearing mines was arduous and time consuming, as records and maps for areas with landmines were not available.
He also thanked the international community for efforts in clearing mines in Southern Sudan, especially on key roads linking the region to neighbouring Uganda and Kenya.
Addressing the Juba event, mine victim representative Apollo Marial reminded the government and its partners of the need to assist this vulnerable group.
"If we are to have peace in our hearts, the government should not forget us … the government and its partners should open centres for us for capacity building so that we will be able to support ourselves and the families," said Mr. Marial.
"Landmine victims are an integral part of society," stated one of the banners land mine victims and non-governmental organizations involved in mine risk education were holding while marching at the national capital's Arkaweit Youth Stadium.
Hamza Agel, who lost both of his legs in 1998 while on patrol with the Sudan Armed Forces in the Maridi area (Western Equatoria State), was getting ready for the football game organized in remembrance of the day.
After being evacuated to Juba and then Khartoum, Mr. Agel recalled the accident. He spent 1.5 years in an Omdurman military hospital and was transferred to Amel medical centre in Jebel Awlia, where he was fitted with prosthetics.
A father of five, Mr. Agel received carpentry training but had failed to find employment.
"Mine clearance prevents an indiscriminate weapon from causing harm and havoc long after conflicts have ended, while also creating jobs, transforming danger zones into productive land," noted Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's message for the day, read by UNMAO representative Leonie Barnes.
Besides mine risk education, UN development agencies were working to connect mine action with broader development plans to promote agricultural production, strengthen infrastructure, improve water supply and provide better education and health services, Mr. Ban said.
The Secretary-General pointed out that mine action remained underfunded, despite its many well-documented successes, including 7,000 kilometres of cleared roads in Sudan. This year's portfolio of mine action projects had secured only about a quarter of the needed resources, leaving a funding gap of $367 million, he said.