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Democratic Republic of Congo

DRC flag

Landmines and other unexploded devices litter the Democratic Republic of Congo, threatening lives and limbs. Communities are also at risk of accidental explosions at poorly managed ammunition depots.

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.
unexploded bomb in DRC

Residents of Dongo found this unexploded 250lb aircraft bomb when they were clearing vegetation to build a house close to the town's primary school.

Photos: Sean Sutton/MAG


The problems

Between 1996 and 2003, the Democratic Republic of Congo was the site of the most deadly conflict since World War Two, which led to as many as 5.4 million deaths¹ and left the country contaminated by landmines and unexploded ordnance (such as bombs, shells, mortars and grenades).

Mines and unexploded bombs limit access to resources such as firewood and arable land, hinders local and cross-border trade and communications, and prevents access to essential health and education services.

On top of this, huge numbers of arms and ammunition are stored in unsecured stockpiles and depots across the country. In the absence of adequate stockpile management procedures, arms and ammunition are regularly ‘diverted’ from official stockpiles to non-state armed groups, fuelling ongoing violence in the country.

Communities are also at risk from the accidental detonation of stockpiles, with most munitions sites located in highly populated areas. According to Small Arms Survey, there have been eight recorded incidents of stockpiles exploding since 2000, killing at least 110 people and injuring hundreds.

¹ Study by the International Rescue Committee

Small arms'Small arms' include revolvers, self-loading pistols, rifles and carbines, sub-machine guns, assault rifles, light machine guns.

How MAG is helping in DRC

MAG is removing and destroying landmines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as carrying out risk education work with communities, to raise awareness of the problems and promote safe behaviour.

We are also the only non-governmental organisation accredited to carry out arms management and destruction initiatives in the country, which began in 2006. These are aimed at (i) preventing weapons finding their way into the wrong hands and (ii) reducing the likelihood of accidental explosions in storage sites, which can cause widespread death and destruction.

non-governmental organisationA non-governmental organisation, or NGO, is a not-for-profit group, principally independent from government, which is organised on a local, national or international level to address issues in support of the public good.

[Source: United Nations, www.unrol.org]

"These are practical solutions that will improve security for the population"

See how MAG is helping to ensure the safe storage of police and army weapons

How MAG works in DRC

We want to develop DRC's ability to deal with its landmine and arms management problems.

For example, we established a Weapons Cutting Base in the capital, Kinshasa, to ensure that weapons found and unaccounted for are destroyed. Now a blueprint for other projects, this unique facility is successfully self-run and self-maintained by national authorities, managed and operated by local people trained by MAG.

We also collaborate closely with the Red Cross, helping. In the immediate aftermath of the arms depot explosion in Mbuji Mayi in January 2014, for instance, which killed at least 20 people, Red Cross teams previously trained by MAG spread safety messages to the public on the risks posed by scattered munitions.

weapons cutting workshop in Kinshasa

A MAG-trained technician at the Weapons Cutting Base in Kinshasa. Guns are brought here from all over the country.

Other countries MAG works in

Africa

AngolaBurundiChadLibyaMaliSomaliaSouth Sudan

Asia

CambodiaLaos • Myanmar • Sri LankaVietnam

Central America

Honduras

Middle East

IraqLebanon

Page updated: 8 December 2014

Our impact here in 2013

• Land cleared: 244,157m²

Unexploded ordnance removed: 13,998

• Weapons destroyed: 10,400

Risk education sessions: 10,400

• Men, women and children we helped: 37,485

MAG in DRC

Programme began: 2004

Our main activities:
Landmine & unexploded ordnance removal
Risk Education
Survey
Cluster munition clearance
Explosive Ordnance Disposal
Battle Area Clearance
Constructing, rehabilitating and securing armouries
Weapons and ammunition destruction
Training

Our work supports:
Agriculture
Infrastructure
Safety and security
Promoting resilience
Building national capacity

About DRC

• Population: 77.4 million

• Life expectancy: 50 years

• Gross National Income per capita: US$230

• People with access to safe drinking water: 45%

• People below the poverty line: 87%

Figures: World Bank, UNDP, UN Water, CIA

Unexploded ordnanceExplosive weapons - such as bombs, rockets, missiles, mortars and grenades - that did not explode when they were used and still pose a risk of detonation.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.
Battle Area Clearance'Battle Area Clearance' (BAC) refers to the systematic and controlled clearance of hazardous areas where the hazards are known not to include mines.

[Source: A Guide to International Mine Action Standards, Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining]

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