Over the past year, NPA’s Country Office in Syria has successfully concluded the establishment of a Damascus-based humanitarian mine action programme and built operational capacity to undertake survey and clearance operations.
NPA is the first international non-governmental organization to do so, aiming to pave the way for other mine action operators to follow.
This month, NPA passed another milestone by deploying its first all-Syrian and gender-balanced demining teams to the war-torn Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk on the southern outskirts of Damascus. Vital financial and political support from the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has enabled this unprecedented operational step into the still-emerging mine action sector in Syria.
That is why NPA today was truly gratified to host a Norwegian embassy delegation led by Chargée d’affaires Yngvild Berggrav on a field visit to witness the work of NPA teams in Yarmouk.
–The arrival of humanitarian deminers in Yarmouk is a very welcome development. NPA is doing important work to enable people to move back to their homes without fear of being harmed by explosive ordnance and other remnants of war. We are very happy to support NPA in this endeavor, said Norway’s Head of Mission to Syria.
The mine action deployment in the camp is also a long overdue step as former civilian residents are returning in increasing numbers amidst the likely presence of UXOs. In view of this critical protection concern, NPA’s initial priority in Yarmouk is to map the extent of explosive ordnance contamination through non-technical survey. However, NPA’s multi-skilled teams will be deployed in short order to conduct search operations and subsequent disposal of confirmed hazardous items.
–The responsibility to protect the safety of camp residents and the many children among them weighs heavily on our minds. There is no time to lose as the number of returnees keeps growing, said Erik Paulsen, NPA’s Syria Country Director.
The pace of returns is only likely to accelerate due to efforts underway to restore UNRWA schools and other social services in the camp. NPA aims to contribute to safe access to such services, in close coordination with UNRWA as well as UNMAS.