Children are especially vulnerable to the threat from Explosive Remnants of War.
In October 2009, three international NGOs all working in Somalia sat around a table in Hargeysa, Somaliland and embarked on an ambitious plan to design, field test then gain national accreditation for Mine Risk Education (MRE) materials suitable for dual use in Somaliland and Puntland.
Danish Demining Group (DDG), Handicap International (HI) and Mines Advisory Group (MAG) agreed that rather than generate their own individual materials in relation to MRE. They would pull their collective experience and creative talents to work together standardising, where possible, images, messages and delivery methodologies to make the education of Somali communities in MRE more effective – and in doing so, the hope was that the impact of each organisation’s work in different areas of operation would be maximised for the benefit of all the targeted communities.
Mine Risk Education teaches children how to identify areas which might be dangerous and what to do if they find an explosive remnant of war.
The cooperation of DDG, HI and MAG, with the assistance of SMAC and PMAC, should keep the people of Somaliland and Puntland – especially children – safer as they go about their daily lives.
[Photos: MAG Somalia]
During the course of initial meetings, it was decided that prioritising the children of Somaliland and Puntland was essential because accident statistics reflect that inquisitive children are especially vulnerable to injuring themselves while tampering with Explosive Remnants of War (ERW).
All three actors agreed to collaborate by designing an ERW recognition poster and an educational leaflet that focused on the Four Steps of Safe Behaviour taught to children if they encounter ERW: STOP, DON’T TOUCH, LEAVE and TELL.
The aim was to teach children how to identify sites or areas which might be dangerous because of ERW and what to do if they found an item of ERW.
The two MRE tools were duly produced with different versions bearing slightly different illustrations being sent for field testing. The process of identifying the clearest messages which children and adults understand, identify with, and remember, takes time and patience to establish. Each organisation duly fed back and the data collected, resulted in set messages being agreed upon.
It was at this point the Somaliland Mine Action Centre (SMAC) and Puntland Mine Action Centre (PMAC) were approached to input their in depth country knowledge to the materials created.
Both national authorities provided very pertinent input which further honed the materials for the local contexts. After a final round of field testing, both SMAC and PMAC were happy to have their logos displayed alongside DDG’s, HI’s and MAG’s and so national accreditation was given. The different regions of Somalia have experienced nearly three decades of instability and intrastate conflict.
The legacy of this armed violence is that individuals and communities face the daily danger of living in areas contaminated by landmines and ERW. The cooperation of DDG, HI and MAG with the assistance of SMAC and PMAC should, in the future, keep the people of Somaliland and Puntland, and especially their children, safer as they go about their daily lives.
MAG thanks the following current donors to its Somalia operations: African Conflict Prevention Pool; Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, U.S. Department of State.
7 December 2010