Uganda: Gulu District landmine/ERW victims survey report

from Associazione Volontari per il Servizio Internazionale
Published on 31 May 2006

I. Background

For the last 20 years, the Acholi region of Northern Uganda has suffered from continued armed conflict that has led to contamination of mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW). Although the number of mines present in Uganda is less than other mine-affected countries (Afghanistan, Angola, Mozambique, Iraq, etc.), the nature of mine use has created a difficult problem to address. There is little or no information(1) on the location or suspicion of mines because such ordnances have been used on an ad hoc basis. Most of the landmines are found in remote areas with no reliable records as to their exact location. The number and location of mines placed in northern Uganda are not known, but efforts at mapping(2) and injury reports have shown that the districts of Gulu, Kitgum and Pader known as "Acholi-land", are the most affected (See map 1 Pg 30). Reports from the community have shown that these weapons are typically deployed in fields, near villages and towns, on roads, around wells, schools, health facilities and even in individual homes. Mines & ERW do not represent the major threat in Acholi land and they are not a major constraint to the resettlement and return of 1.4 million IDPs in Northern Uganda. However, the prevalence of mines and ERW must not be ignored as their presence leads to significant health, social, environmental and economic impacts. Besides killing and disabling individuals, landmines and ERWs still represent a potential danger to the Acholi community.

The Government authorities together with mine action-working groups expressed the need of having more information and better knowledge regarding the pollution of mines/ERW in Northern Uganda. For this reason, AVSI decided to carry out the "Landmine/ERW victims survey in Gulu District". The main objective of the research is to accurately identify landmine and ERW victims in Gulu District, noting the conditions that led to the incidents, details about the victims, and specific areas where the incidents occurred.

II. Methods

This survey was designed to be representative of all Sub-Counties of Gulu District and canvassed 53 IDP camps(3). Teams of interviewers administered a structured questionnaire adapted from the IMSMA4 landmine victim form that was translated into the Acholi language and was to be completed by the landmine survivors, and relatives of those who were killed in landmine/ERW accidents. Results were analysed jointly for the entire Gulu District.

III. Main findings

Through the survey it was discovered that accidents have occurred in different settings and by different ordinances (e.g. some of the survivors were injured while travelling on foot, others in vehicles e.t.c). The main survey findings for Gulu District are summarised below:

- A total of 1,387 incidents were identified. Of which 57% were injuries and 38% deaths.

- Majority of landmine/ERW victims are males (70%) and 30% females.

- 72% of landmine/ERW victims are adults, 4% children less than 10 years, 13% from 10 to 18 years and 12% above 60 years.

- 38% of mine/ERW accidents occurred while travelling on foot while 12% occurred to those travelling in vehicles.

- Out of the 1,387 incidents, 33% occurred along village footpaths and 24% along roads/routes commonly used by the villagers.

- Out of all the people interviewed (survivors or relatives of the ones killed), 84% were not aware that the location of incident was dangerous.

- One of the paramount reasons given by victims as to why they went to the incident site even when they knew it was dangerous was economic necessity with 52%, and 19% citing no other access.

- Of the device that caused the incident, anti-personnel mine (APM) constituted 61%, other ERW 17%, and anti-tank mines (ATM) made up 11%.

- Less than half of all deaths occurred in health facilities (20%) while 61% was on site.

- 72% of casualties sought medical help from the main hospitals, 22% from health centres and 6% from private clinics.

From the above findings, it comes to notice that many of the incidents occurred to people travelling on foot and it's also apparent that APM are responsible for majority of death among the mine/ERW victims.

IV. Key Recommendations

In order for mine/ERW related accidents to be properly addressed, there's need for all members of the Uganda Mine Action Program (both government and non government bodies) to continue developing and implementing MRE, VA and advocacy related activities. Crucial will also be a quick deployment of UPDF and Police officers trained in demining in Northern Uganda. The following are some key recommendations:

a. To strengthen community-based approach in sensitising the community on dangers of landmines to guarantee sustainability of the programme.

b. To Support and strengthen landmine survivors' involvement in MRE sensitisation, advocacy (nationally and internationally) and victims assistance related activities.

c. To emphasise direct involvement of government structures e.g. the UPDF and Police in demining exercise and sensitisation of local community on dangers of landmines/ERW (as it is already mentioned by the "National Policy on IDPs").

d. To facilitate continuous funding for the Northern Uganda crisis, by focusing on life saving interventions and allocating sufficient resources to projects like demining, EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) and mine clearance that should start as soon as possible.

e. To scale up and consolidate or improve capacity of health services to treat and rehabilitate mine/ERW victims.

f. To encourage similar exercise in the other contaminated districts in Northern Uganda. This is the first data collection programme of its kind in northern Uganda and therefore is a first step in building a data management system.

g. To improve coordination and data sharing between all agencies, NGOs and government bodies working in Mine Action related sectors.

h. To support landmine/ERW survivors to improve their standards of living through economic empowerment and social reintegration programmes.


(1) Information at hand on landmine has only been obtained after civilian incident involving vehicles or bicycles or from data collected by health facilities.

(2) Map is a result of efforts by AVSI Gulu Office and European Union- Acholi program at mapping prevalence of mines in Acholi land.

(3) See list of IDP Camps - Appendix 5.2 Pg 27

(4) Information Management System Mine Action

(pdf* format - 1.8 MB)