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Walking without fear from landmines

"When we came back after the fighting ended, we knew soldiers had been here and we were worried about landmines, but we didn’t know which areas were dangerous," says Alfredo Ohuda.

MAG deminers head to work in the minefield.

MAG deminers head to work in the minefield.

Credit: Sean Sutton/MAG

Alfredo, pictured below, is community leader and assistant administrator of Kimodonge, a village close to the city of Torit in South Sudan's Eastern Equatoria state.

He continues: "Then the headmaster’s child died when he stepped on a mine. He was only nine years old. We were scared, but we knew we had to grow food to survive because we had so little. One villager found six mines when he was working in the fields."

We will be able to collect water and firewood, and stones to rebuild our village

MAG teams funded by the UK Department for International Development and the Dutch government are now in the area clearing the minefields.

Farmers from Kimodonge have tried to cultivate the land, but found a number of landmines. Few people dared to farm there afterwards.

The contaminated area is extremely fertile and people desperately need safe access to the land.

Alfredo in Kimodonge village

"Soon we will be able to walk with no fear. We will be able to collect water and firewood, and collect stones to rebuild our village."
– Alfredo, Kimodonge village

Credit: Sean Sutton/MAG

Additionally, the nearby bridge needs to be re-built to allow access to three villages across the river that have been cut off from vehicle traffic for many years.

"We were tasked to come here as a priority," explained MAG Technical Field Manager Jack Frost. "There is plenty of evidence that mines have been laid, and it is clear to see from a military perspective why they were used to defend this position."

"We are using the Bozena remote-controlled machine to flail the land that is most needed by the community. It is relatively flat and the ground is soft, so conditions are ideal for this machine.

"The machine does two passes of the land. When we find mines or evidence of mines, our approach to the clearance then changes and the procedure moves to using deminers with detectors.

"The machine is very good for determining the high-risk areas. We will then check other areas through technical survey¹."

Soon, the area will be safe again and the work will have made a real difference to the people in this community.

Alfredo concluded by saying: "The people here are grateful. We all feel joy at seeing MAG here. Soon we will be able to walk with no fear. We will be able to collect water and firewood, and collect stones to rebuild our village."

¹ Note: Technical survey is defined by the International Mine Action Standards as the detailed topographical and technical investigation of known or suspected hazardous areas identified during the planning phase.

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South Sudan profile

Video: Mine Risk Education in South Sudan

Mine Risk Education in South Sudan: the most important lesson these children will ever receive.

17 October 2013

LandminesA landmine is defined by the Mine Ban Treaty as "a munition designed to be placed under, on or near the ground or other surface area and to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person or a vehicle."

Landmines are generally divided into two main groups - anti-personnel and anti-tank - and have four main component parts: an outer structure made of either plastic, wood, metal, Bakelite, rubber or even glass; a fuse or firing mechanism; a detonator; and high explosives.

Some contain thousands of pieces of shrapnel, designed to fire out to great distances, while others have been made with a minimum amount of metal and are therefore difficult to detect using metal detectors.
Suspected Hazardous AreasA 'Suspected Hazardous Area' (SHA) is an area where there is reasonable suspicion of contamination from landmines and/or unexploded ordnance/abandoned ordnance, on the basis of indirect evidence.

[Source: International Mine Action Standards]
Risk EducationRisk Education (or Mine Risk Education) refers to activities that seek to reduce the risk of death and injury from landmines and other explosive weapons, and lessen their social and economic impact.

Risk Education includes the provision of safety messages to at-risk individuals and communities, raising awareness of the dangers and promoting safe behaviour.

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