Syria

Syria: the EU and UNMAS renew partnership to protect Syrians from explosives threat

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Damascus, 11 October 2021 – The European Union (EU) and the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) have renewed their partnership to provide assistance to the mine action partners, support safer humanitarian response programming and integrate explosive ordnance risk education into the work of numerous humanitarian agencies working in Syria. In the coming year, a €1 million grant from the EU will enable UNMAS to further enhance its coordination role, expand its risk education reach, and strengthen mine action data management to enable needs-based prioritization for mine action activities and safer humanitarian relief efforts.

Explosive ordnance contamination in Syria is widespread, including in highly populated cities and towns. One in three communities in Syria are presumably contaminated and one in two people - approximately 10.3 million - are at risk, according to the 2021 Humanitarian Needs Overview.

"Minimising the threat of explosives in Syria is a crucial endeavour which the EU is committed to continue supporting. Risk education and reliable data are indispensable to save lives and protect livelihoods in a country where half the population is believed to be at risk of unexploded ordnance. Educating people, including children, and warning them of the dangers can make the difference between life and death,” said Luigi Pandolfi, Head of EU humanitarian aid operations in Syria.

Mine contamination not only threatens lives, but also the distribution of humanitarian assistance and the ability to rebuild. It causes millions of people to live in fear and insecurity. Though a comprehensive country-wide survey of contamination has not been carried out, UNMAS continues to work with partners and authorities to fully survey the country and scale up the clearance of contamination. It also coordinates the work of humanitarian mine action actors and expands risk education across the country.

“Humanitarian aid provided by the European Union has been critical to mitigating the risk for communities living and working in areas contaminated with explosive ordnance. The humanitarian project financed by the European Union, has supported UNMAS operation in Syria to further reduce the impact of explosive ordnance on Syrian civilians. Thanks to the EU’s renewed commitment, a second project is being launched, enabling the Service to expand its operational reach and save more lives,” said Mr. Habibulhaq Javed, Chief of the Mine Action Programme in Syria.

Over the past two years, the assistance from the European Union enabled UNMAS to provide explosive ordnance risk education to more than 200,000 people, half of whom were women and girls. UNMAS supported and coordinated risk education teams deployed in Homs and Hama; trained over 600 humanitarian workers; and distributed almost 300,000 risk education leaflets and posters. A billboard awareness campaign on the risk of explosive ordnance was implemented, displaying safety messages along highways in nine governorates, with 20 billboards also installed permanently in Rural Damascus. Together with UNICEF, UNMAS launched two risk education SMS campaigns. The campaigns targeted all subscribers of the two main Syrian mobile companies, reaching millions of people across the country. Radio and video messages were developed and broadcast to reach an even larger audience.

“UNMAS works to enable the Syrian people to resume their life in a safe environment, by eliminating the threat of explosive ordnance. As UNMAS expands its work in Syria, continued partnerships with all stakeholders, including important partners such as the European Union is key to the successful implementation of our programme,” added Mr. Habibulhaq Javed.

The new funding will enable UNMAS to respond to critical humanitarian mine action needs and expand its operational scope and reach to protect even more Syrians from the risks of explosives in the year ahead.

For further information, please contact:

Mr. Habibulhaq Javed, UNMAS Syria Response Programme, CMAP OiC Syria Office, Damascus, Syria, habibulhaqj@unops.org

Ms. Anouk Delafortrie, EU Humanitarian Aid, Regional Information Officer, anouk.delafortrie@echofield.eu