Northwest Syria remains a region still in conflict, across opposition controlled areas of Idleb and western Aleppo, and Turkish administered areas of northern Aleppo. Ongoing hostilities continue to expose civilians to multiple protection risks, including protracted displacement and lack of access to basic services. The dire conditions for civilians living in northwest Syria are further exacerbated by an explosive ordnance contamination emergency. Unexploded bombs, cluster munitions and improvised explosive devices pose an additional hazard in what is already one of the world’s largest and most complex humanitarian crises.
For the past two years, The HALO Trust has worked with national NGO partners to assess almost 1,000 towns and villages in the Idlib, Aleppo and Afrin districts of northwest Syria. This has led to the first comprehensive understanding of explosive ordnance contamination across northwest Syria which is now documented in a HALO report.
To mark the report’s release and to raise awareness of the humanitarian issues linked to explosive hazard contamination, HALO, the Netherlands and ECHO co-hosted a webinar meeting. 42 participants from 23 organisations and governments participated in the event. The meeting explored the current response delivered by HALO and its implementing partners and the urgent needs for mine action programming in northwest Syria. Participants also discussed the operational challenges facing mine action implementers in northwest Syria as well as the ways and means of working through local partnerships.
Participants agreed that despite the ongoing nature of the conflict and the absence of a durable ceasefire, explosive ordnance contamination presents an immediate threat for civilians and the continuation of mine action intervention is essential. Participants also acknowledged the intersectionality of mine action work, overlapping with protection and health sectors, and agreed that more could be done to mainstream the mine action response within wider humanitarian programming.