Somalia commits to a future clear of landmines

MOGADISHU – Somalia has signed the internationally-recognized Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, committing to destroy its stockpile of landmines over the next four years and de-mine the country within a decade.

The Horn of Africa state, which became the 160th country to sign the convention, has suffered from explosive remnants of war and landmine contamination following decades of conflict. The Somali Government also agreed to assist landmine survivors and to no longer use, produce or transfer anti-personnel mines.

This commitment comes as a major boost to the work of the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in Somalia. Somalia programme manager for UNMAS, David Bax, said signing the convention marked a significant milestone and indicated Somalia’s progress in forming a cohesive government with a clear commitment to peace and security.

He continued: "The UNMAS Explosive Management Programme will carry on working with the Somali government to conduct the important activities that member statehood of this Convention requires."

UNMAS operates in close cooperation with the Government of Somalia, prioritizing humanitarian mine action and contributing to the national development of the Somali police.

UNOPS has facilitated UNMAS engagement in Somalia since 2007. After providing support to a joint United Nations initiative led by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UNMAS took the lead for mine action in Somalia in 2009.

Over the past five years, more than 21,461 items of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and anti-personnel mines have been destroyed. Since 2008, over 720,000 women, men and children have received lifesaving awareness and safety information from mine action partners in 10 of south-central Somalia’s 11 regions. These activities have expanded the scope for recovery and development by improving the safety and freedom of movement for individuals, communities and humanitarian workers.

To support the dangerous disposal of UXO and anti-personnel mines, UNMAS employs an emergency team of a dozen Somali medics who provide on-site assistance. These medics also provide emergency support at local hospitals. At Medina Hospital in Mogadishu for example, they have treated 5,381 trauma victims, including more than 4,000 gunshot wounds, 50 UXO accident survivors, 965 shell injuries and 342 improvised explosive device (IED) victims since February 2010. The team also conducts medical training for hospital staff, mine action partners, local staff members and police Explosive Ordnance Disposal units.

With UNOPS support as the primary implementing partner, the UNMAS Explosive Management Programme in Somalia is committed to coordinating efforts with its local counterparts, the Somali Government and other partners to strengthen national mine action capacity.

After his country’s commitment to the Convention was announced, the Legal Advisor to the Somali President, Professor Abuukar Hassan Ahmed said: "This is a historical moment for Somali people. It means that Somalia is returning to the world stage."